Lawsuit reveals 'Animal House' culture in Dartmouth department
- A lawsuit brought by seven women against Dartmouth College alleges it mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct and discrimination in their department over a 16-year period, creating a "21st-century Animal House" culture, The New York Times reported. Dartmouth said it disagrees with how its response was characterized.
- The lawsuit centers on the actions of three tenured male professors in the college's psychological and brain sciences department, who court documents say "leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated and even raped female students."
- In October 2017, Dartmouth announced that it had launched an investigation into the men's conduct. One retired and two resigned after the college started the process to fire the tenured faculty, The Times reported. The college didn't share the investigations' findings, and so the lawsuit sheds first light on claims the men coerced the women into participating in a sexualized culture for fear of losing access to academic and career opportunities.
Universities are increasingly being taken to task for how they handle allegations of sexual misconduct and other discrimination among members of their campus community. This is in part due to the high-profile nature of several recent sexual misconduct scandals that put the spotlight on how administrators responded, as well as the growing awareness of the issue within higher education as an outcome of the #MeToo movement.
A steady stream of reports about sexual misconduct within the ranks of higher ed has exposed it as a prominent problem. A researcher at Michigan State University has so far tracked more than 700 substantiated cases of sexual misconduct at colleges and universities across the country. While the earliest dates to 1917, most occurred from the early 2000s to the present.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2016 and 2017 alone, 22 public universities and systems paid more than $10.5 million across 59 settlements that involved claims by students, faculty and staff of sexual harassment. Most of the cases pertained to how the university handled complaints.
The University of Southern California and Michigan State University have each paid hundreds of millions in settlements following highly publicized sexual misconduct cases, and their presidents have stepped down.
Colleges are also subject to fines for such incidents from other stakeholders or compliance groups.
For example, last month Baylor University was issued a $2 million fine from the Big 12 athletic conference for "reputational damage" resulting from a sexual assault scandal involving the college's football team. And the University of Montana was fined $1 million under the Clery Act for its admitted failure to properly report several instances of crimes occurring on campus, including sexual offenses. One campus security consultant told the Chronicle of Higher Education that the speed at which Clery Act fines are assessed and their amount is expected to increase.
- The New York Times Dartmouth Professors Are Accused of Sexual Abuse by 7 Women in Lawsuit
Follow Hallie Busta on Twitter