NEW YORK (AP) — A Columbia University student who said she was coerced into a sexual relationship with a former dean and the university failed to protect her filed a $50 million lawsuit against the school on Tuesday.
In the suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, the plaintiff identified as “Jane Doe” said she went to the university for help after being raped in May and was sent to Tom Harford, a dean of students at one of Columbia’s three undergraduate schools, because she needed emergency housing.
She said he manipulated her into a sexual relationship through her need for scholarship funding.
According to court papers, “Harford used his power and influence at Columbia to coerce the plaintiff into an inappropriate sexual and romantic relationship.”
The suit said other officials at the school were aware of the amount of interaction between the two, but did nothing to protect the plaintiff.
In its statement, Columbia said it could not comment on litigation, but “Harford was promptly removed from his position as dean of students when we learned of behavior that was unacceptable in light of his responsibilities. ... We take these matters very seriously. Our priority is providing a safe and supportive learning environment that fosters the intellectual and personal fulfillment of our students.”
Harford could not be reached for comment.