Writing a masters thesis is hard enough: with finding a topic, researching, and the finally putting it all in writing. Another important step is to find a faculty member who is willing to act as your advisor to guide you through your thesis process. Now imagine you find such an advisor but he is more interested in your personal life than helping you with any of your working. Imagine being uncomfortably close every time you went for guidance and that’s what happened to one Columbia grad student.
Every time Ms. Williams went to meet with her faculty advisor Mr. Martin, she would be bombarded with personal questions about her private life. Every time she attempted to steer the conversation back towards her thesis on human trafficking, she would be faced with more questions. Mr. Martin was bold enough to repeatedly solicit Ms. Williams for sex while making it clear that any negative response would seriously affect her final course evaluation.
Ms. Williams emails other faculty members for meeting to discuss the sexual harassment she was facing by Mr. Martin but her emails went unanswered. Mr. Martin stated to the Plaintiff “even if I am the professor and you are the student and there is a power difference, you would still be choosing if you wanted a good grade. This is the same as sex in exchange for your grade.”
When the semester is over, Mr. Martin gives Ms. Williams a failing grade and then Ms. Williams is forced to go through years of trying to get her record straight. She had a written agreement with Mr. Martin that she was only to conduct independent research for her thesis but that no final paper was required. She was thereafter prevented from graduating on time and was forced into an early repayment with her loans once Columbia University reported her status as withdrawn to her loans.
Even after over a year, she contacted various employees at Columbia University who advised her that while they attempted to investigate the matter, they were faced with multiple road blocks. Mr. Martin and Columbia University acted together to sexually harass and retaliate against Ms. Williams for failing to submit to sexual advanced of a professor at Columbia University.
This type of cover-up tactics are quite common in Universities but these actions are in violation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which were codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1681. Even though these laws are in place, sexual harassment of this nature does occur even in the most prestigious academic settings. If you are being subjected to sexual harassment and have faced multiple obstacles in getting what is rightfully yours, contact the attorneys at the Harman Firm.