A respected Columbia University professor is facing allegations of sexual harassment from a doctoral student who claims that the 79-year-old frequently and inappropriately flirted with her, forcing her to withdraw from school and seek counseling.
In a lawsuit filed Monday by an anonymous student, Professor William Harris was accused of sexually harassing “female assistants, students and fellow faculty members.” Despite numerous allegations, the suit contends, Columbia University has remained “deliberately indifferent” toward the case and refuses to punish the lecherous professor.
Harris, who specializes in Greek and Roman history and has taught at the prestigious university for over 50 years, allegedly knew that his actions “violated sexual harassment policies and [were] beyond all possible bounds of decency” but continued his improper behavior anyway, New York Daily News reported.
The anonymous doctoral student who filed the lawsuit claims that she was forced to withdraw from the 2015-2016 school year after Harris’s sexual harassment grew so severe that she required counseling.
While the student has now returned to Columbia to pursue her dissertation, she often finds herself in close proximity to Harris on campus and is outraged that no action has been taken against him.
“Columbia University has not placed any meaningful restrictions on him,” she said.
One of the student’s attorneys, Jennifer Siegel, argued that Harris’s special treatment only serves to reveal Columbia’s “systemic pattern of turning the other way and turning a blind eye.”
Columbia fired back against the allegations in a statement, insisting: “We treat any claim of harassment or other gender-based misconduct in our community with the utmost seriousness, but we do not comment in the press on allegations made in legal complaints.”
Back in 2013, Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz – otherwise known as “Mattress Girl” –accused a fellow student of having raped her at the beginning of her sophomore year. That student, who was eventually exonerated by the university, went on to mount a Title IX gender discrimination against Columbia in April 2015 that was eventually settled by the university in July 2017.
“Columbia recognizes that after the conclusion of the investigation, Paul’s remaining time at Columbia became very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience,” the school said in a statement at the time.
“Columbia will continue to review and update its policies toward ensuring that every student – accuser and accused, including those like Paul who are found not responsible – is treated respectfully and as a full member of the Columbia community.”