News | Jun. 22 9:30 pm EST

University settles sexual harassment case

Henry Willson / Senior Staff Photographer

Columbia settled the lawsuit filed by Ph.D. student Alberto Leguina, who alleged his Medical Center supervisor sexually harassed him and then unfairly fired him last June after complaining to the University.

After the University filed a counterclaim in September 2012, a mediator was assigned to the case in October. Court documents said “on or about March 3, the parties reached a settlement in principle with the assistance of the court-appointed mediator.”

Leguina alleged that after he rejected the advances of Qais Al-Awqati, a professor of medicine, nephrology, and hypertension, the supervisor grew angry with him. According to the lawsuit, another supervisor and a human resources representative failed to support Leguina or help him file a complaint, which Leguina contended led to his firing.

The parties entered into a stipulation of confidentiality and agreed protective order on Jan. 9. In addition, Leguina said in an email on May 28 that the settlement made all details private and prevented him from commenting any further on the case.

A Columbia spokesperson said the University held with its prior statement that it could not comment on pending litigation. While the parties have reached a settlement, the case is still technically pending, with the next case management conference scheduled for July 15.




  1. zingon • June 23, 2013 at 12:19 am • Reply

    Oh an Arab homosexual boss, and Columbia University administrators.

    All in a happy family.

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    • yes • June 23, 2013 at 11:45 pm • Reply

      because the problem with the supervisor is that he’s Arab and gay, not because he sexually harassed someone and led someone to lose their job.

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  2. aluminati • June 23, 2013 at 11:47 pm • Reply

    columbia has a well documented history of supporting this kind of abuse by its employees. disgraceful. i am sure this kid got shafted by this big institutuion with thousands of lawyers on the payroll. i would like to hear what reforms they are putting in place. really disgusting.

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  3. aluminati • June 23, 2013 at 11:47 pm • Reply

    that professor is a pig.

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  4. Michael Kessler • June 24, 2013 at 12:38 am • Reply

    Columbia University under the direction of Professor Qais Al-Awqati brought a young idealistic and very talented intern Alberto Leguina from Chile promising him three years work at the side of the now infamous Qais Al-Awqati! I recall Alberto telling me when his position was approved that he needed first to send photograph of himself to the professor. I thought that is odd. Alberto isn’t applying to be a model. So why is his photo necessary. I dismissed it thinking I must be out of date.
    I personally was very proud both of our country and the University for giving Alberto this opportunity about which he wouldn’t shut up. That was until the day he called me in Los Angeles hysterical telling me that the professor hit on him and he rejected him. I was on the phone with him when the professor yelled at him he was finished to get out! I was also on the phone with him and overheard the manipulation and harassment engineered by this professor through staff and those charged in other supervisory positions. I over heard the screaming and the chairs being slammed around and the test tubes rather (glass) breaking. The commentary and behavior by people at Columbia who are supposed to be scholars and refined educated individuals could easily out perform any Jerry Springer guest list.
    The pay off came one afternoon when I asked Alberto to describe to me the appearance of the other boys, interns and students the professor favored. When he was finished describing the last one, I remarked Alberto you just described yourself! Interestingly Alberto wasn’t the only intern Qais Al-Awqati imported from South America over the years. Perhaps others have similar stories to tell? One would think the University would investigate but then why bother when they already know the results!
    We look at the campus shootings over the years and wonder how this student or that one fell through the cracks or why no one foresaw the potential for criminal behavior and failed to reach out to these souls Tears are shed and everyone from the esteemed Deans to the lowest faculty member parades out one after another in one observance event after another! And yet nothing changes! Why? The answer is simple. There was a time when our Colleges and Universities functioned solely for the betterment of the students. There was a time when no one fell through the cracks or went on noticed. No more. Now our colleges and universities function for the benefit of the institutional elite who operate them. The professors who garner the most grant money like the Midas touch of Qais Al-Awqati. The deans with their salaries and perks that now rival that of executives of most American multi-national corporations.
    In closing I remind you that Professor Qais Al-Awqati recanted all his initial denials about being homosexual and his lies about his behavior. I find it amazing. It was as if Columbia management and lawyers chalked the professor’s behavior up to human error. Alzheimer’s would have at least been a more credible excuse. He lied to everyone including the Dean. It didn’t matter. It was time to gather the wagons!
    Alberto raved about the honor to work next to such an honored professor like Qais Al-Awqati. When I asked Alberto about his love affair with the United States, he told me it was because of our principles of equality, hard work and recognition of talent. He once confided that he was still in a state of awe about being chosen to intern at Columbia. He questioned if he was good enough? I often think about that since Alberto was obviously chosen because he fit the professor’s sexual ideal! It’s not what you know its more about what you look like and who wants to get in your pants at Columbia.
    The state of New York and Columbia University permitted a professor to take a very idealistic, extremely talented award winning 21 year old medical intern and trash him simply because he innocently said no I don’t want to date you! My name is Mike Kessler and I met Alberto the first week he arrived in the USA because of our similar interest in hypertension.

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  5. zingon • June 24, 2013 at 7:33 am • Reply

    Not only are the Columbia president and deans paid too highly, they have criminal minds.

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  6. anon • June 24, 2013 at 8:55 am • Reply

    Was the professor fired?

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