Dartmouth lawsuit alleges long-running culture of sexual abuse

Several months after college removed three professors, student lawsuit outlines years of grades and promotions tied to sexual demands

November 15, 2018
Dartmouth College

Seven current and former students at Dartmouth College have filed a lawsuit against the Ivy League institution in a federal court, alleging a long-running culture of sexual abuse by their psychology professors.

The lawsuit describes the three academics as sexually assaulting and threatening grades, research funding and advisory meetings for women who did not comply with their sexual advances, The Boston Globe reported.

Incidents included lab meetings held at bars, with one of the professors inviting students to use cocaine as part of a “demonstration” related to drug addiction, the students alleged in their lawsuit.

All three professors were removed this past summer with little public explanation beyond a general indication by the New Hampshire institution of sexual misconduct, and the announcement by the state attorney general of a criminal investigation.

The allegations in the lawsuit cover a period from at least 2014 to 2017, though complaints against one of the professors date back as early as 2002, the Globe reported.

The professors – Todd Heatherton, Paul Whalen and Bill Kelley – were initially placed on paid leave and barred from campus, the Globe said. Professors Whalen and Kelley later resigned, and Professor Heatherton retired, the newspaper said.

Specific complaints described in the lawsuit include uninvited sexual touching accompanied by discussions of grades, a student being groped and pulled on to a professor’s lap in front of scientific colleagues, and non-consensual sexual relations.

Dartmouth began admitting women in 1972. Not long afterwards, according to Melissa Zeiger, a long-serving English professor quoted by the Valley News newspaper of nearby West Lebanon, male students went around campus singing The Cohog Song, with lyrics demeaning to women.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, is expected this week to propose new changes to federal rules governing the handling of sexual assault allegations on college campuses that would give more power to those accused.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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