Graduate students often end up treading the line between student and employee. While they take positions assisting professors and teaching undergraduates as part of extending their education — and often receive payment for their work — they are first and foremost students who count on a collegial or at least civil learning environment as they strive for degrees and do post-doctoral work.
Graduate students are protected by the same anti-discrimination, anti-harassment laws that protect employees. In New York, these include:
The State Human Rights Law
New York City's Human Rights Law
Also included are two federal laws:
Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972
Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964
Recent cases at Columbia University seem to indicate that the school should remind itself both of the requirements under those laws and of its obligation to protect vulnerable students from harassment by professors in positions of relative power.
In one case, two female students accused a human rights professor of touching them inappropriately and of refusing to give them recommendations when they rejected his advances.
In another, a male student from Chile accused his well-known lab supervisor and professor of making advances through Grindr, a smartphone application for gay and bisexual men. When the student rejected the professor's advances and sought advice and help through another professor and through human resources, he faced delay and obfuscation until — months later — the professor who had originally harassed him fired him and left him no choice but to return to Chile in order to continue his studies.
In some ways, sexual harassment of students by professors can be even more devastating than workplace sexual harassment. Professors are in the position to deny students important recommendations and referrals, as well as giving them poor grades or even failing them in important courses. This denies students the sound basis they need as they begin their professional lives. Student victims of sexual harassment should consult anti-discrimination and anti-harassment lawyers experienced in representing students in order to protect their ongoing education and burgeoning careers.
Posted in Harassment | Tagged discrimination lawsuit, human rights law