Employment Law Daily $14M settlement would counter damage done by ‘predator’s club’ professors
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Saturday, August 10, 2019

$14M settlement would counter damage done by ‘predator’s club’ professors

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Little is known about the other proposed settlement terms, but the alleged sexual harassers are no longer employed, and there will be funded initiatives to identify and rectify current problems and prevent future issues.

In what the parties are calling “a historic partnership seeking to enact meaningful change,” Dartmouth College and the nine plaintiffs named (some only as Jane Does) in a Title IX class action lawsuit have reached a $14 million settlement to resolve allegations that a “predator’s club,” which included three tenured professors in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, “leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated, and even raped female students,” for well over a decade.

Well-known pattern. What the plaintiffs describe as “pervasive sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination” in the department that was perpetuated by the three professors “was well-known to Dartmouth’s supervisory faculty and administrators since at least 2002,” according to the complaint.

The professors tied female students’ academic success to the their willingness to tolerate unwanted sexual attention, with all three professors favoring students “who accompanied the men on their frequent drinking binges and engaged in sexual banter or submitted to unwanted touching and sexual contact,” the plaintiffs alleged.

Attractiveness ranking system. The so-called predator’s club also made inappropriate comments about the students’ physical attractiveness, including explicit references to their breasts, the plaintiffs said. One professor “went so far as to publicly ‘rank’ women on a ‘Papi’ scale by which a ‘0’ rating meant he ‘would never bang’ under any circumstances, a ‘1’ rating meant ‘hot enough that you would bang her if her personality was excellent,’ and a ‘2’ rating meant ‘so hot you would bang her no matter what she was like,’” according to the complaint.

More about the settlement. Other terms of the settlement, which at the time of press had not yet been made public or filed with the federal district court, are expected to be posted on the websites of Dartmouth and Sanford Heisler Sharp, one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs. It was clear from the statements of the parties, however, that the three tenured professors accused of sexual harassment will no longer be teaching at Dartmouth.

The settlement will also include certain initiatives to be funded by the college, under the aegis of the College’s Campus Climate and Culture Initiative, to identify and rectify current problems and prevent future issues.

The parties asked the judge to stay the case after reaching a settlement agreement in principle during mediation so that they can prepare and file settlement documents.

“I cannot express strongly enough my deep disappointment that these individuals violated their positions of trust to these, and other, students and members of our community,” Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon said in a joint press release. “Their conduct flies in the face of Dartmouth’s mission and core values. That is why my colleagues and I moved to revoke their tenure. Through this process, we have learned lessons that we believe will enable us to root out this behavior immediately if it ever threatens our campus community again.”

“We remain committed to bringing survivor perspectives and community voices to the forefront of the conversation surrounding campus climate,” the plaintiffs said. “Together with Dartmouth, we plan to continue addressing the systemic roots of power-based personal violence and gender-based discrimination across all levels of severity so that our experiences—and those of the class we represent—are never repeated.”

The case, Rapuano v. Trustees of Dartmouth College, was filed in the District of New Hampshire; it is No. 1:18-cv-01070.

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