Harvard ignored sexual harassment by a professor for years, lawsuit claims

Three graduate students filed a lawsuit against Harvard University on Tuesday, claiming the school ignored sexual harassment allegations against a renowned professor for years.

Lilia Kilburn, Margaret Czerwienski, and Amulya Mandava allege John Comaroff, an anthropology and African American studies professor, kissed and groped students without consent

“The message sent by Harvard’s actions alleged in the complaint is clear: students should shut up. It is the price to pay for a degree,” Russell Kornblith of Sanford Heisler Sharp, the women’s law firm, said in a statement.

“Ms. Kilburn sat frozen in shock, while professor Comaroff continued for approximately five minutes,” the suit said. The other two plaintiffs, Margaret Czerwienski and Amulya Mandava, said when they reported Comaroff’s behavior to university administrators, he retaliated against them by threatening to derail their careers.

They’re asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to grant them a declaratory judgment nullifying Harvard’s procedure, a permanent injunction against the institution, and an award of compensatory and punitive damages, among other relief.

Comaroff, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in a statement from his lawyers that he “categorically denies ever harassing or retaliating against any student.”

“Regarding Ms. Kilburn, professor Comaroff did not kiss her or touch her inappropriately at any time,” the statement said.




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