Sexual harassment on college campuses hurts students, education

Posted in Sexual Harassment on September 28, 2015

From an employment law perspective, colleges and universities present unique challenges. Although there is technically a distinction between students and university employees, the lines are often blurred. Graduate students may work for both pay and educational credits. Athletes may be coached by hired coaches and volunteer support staff.

Needless to say, this kind of environment can lead to incidents of sexual harassment. When that happens, students are often the victims and typically have the most to lose.

California has one of the largest state educational systems in the country, so it’s no surprise that sexual harassment cases are numerous and frequent. But even in other parts of the country, sexual harassment on college and university campuses is a pervasive problem.

At the University of Minnesota, for instance, sexual harassment scandals in athletics have been making headlines for the past couple years. In August, the U of M’s athletic director resigned rather quickly after being accused of sexual harassment against two university employees (non-students).

During the 2014-2015 school year, a student athlete in women’s gymnastics brought allegations against her female coach and the coach’s husband, who worked as a volunteer assistant coach for the team. According to the gymnast, the volunteer assistant coach hired her to do some semi-nude modeling on seven to 10 occasions. The young woman alleged that “the modeling included semi-nude attire, provocative poses and inappropriate touching. I was extremely uncomfortable from the outset but conceded at his direction.”

He was eventually barred from even volunteering in the school’s gymnastics program, but his wife continued to coach. However, the student gymnast alleged, the coach retaliated against her and others connected to sexual harassment complaints against the coach’s husband. The female coach eventually resigned. In December 2014, the student athlete was given a settlement by the University of $250,000.

Incidents like these are occurring at colleges and universities across the United States. When they are condoned or otherwise allowed to happen, victims and other students suffer the worst consequences.

If you have been sexually harassed as a university student, an employee or both, you don’t have to simply put up with it. Please discuss your case with an experienced sexual harassment attorney who can explain your legal rights and options.