Spectrum | Dec. 11 6:45 pm EST
Lawsuit

Former student sues University over alleged sexual harassment

A former graduate student has filed a lawsuit against Columbia University in which she accuses a Columbia professor of sexual harassment. According to court documents, the student is accusing SIPA Professor Joseph Paul Martin of demanding sex from the student in exchange for a passing grade in an independent study class she took in fall 2005: “instead of helping Plaintiff … with her course work, Defendant Martin repeatedly solicited Plaintiff … for sex.”

In her lawsuit, the former student claims that Martin insisted on sitting very close to her during meetings, and asked inappropriate questions about her personal relationships. He also allegedly explained that “Even if I am the professor and you are the student and there is a power difference, you would still be choosing if you wanted a good grade. This is the same as sex in exchange for your grade.”

The student claims she repeatedly tried to contact administrators in an attempt to get them to address the situation, but says they were uncooperative. Some of them, including former GSAS Dean Henry Pinkham and Assistant Dean Darice Birge, are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

According to the suit, the student rebuffed her professor’s advances, but he continued harassing the student and asking her inappropriate personal questions. At one point, Martin allegedly asked the student, who is black, whether she planned on having children while single, and made references to his belief that “black women typically have children out of wedlock.”  At the end of the semester, Martin allegedly refused to give the student a grade and ultimately accused her of cheating in her independent study class.

The former student is seeking $1 million dollars in her lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court on Nov. 26. Martin is teaching several courses this spring, including Human Rights in Theory and Practice (HRTB BC1025), as well as two graduate colloquia in human rights.

A University spokesperson said that Columbia would not comment on cases of active litigation.

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COMMENTS (18)

  1. Anonymous • December 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm • Reply

    i hope the admin makes a statement soon or this will continue to look very fishy on paul martin’s side. also, what is it with the end of fall semester and bad press on this campus?!

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  2. Anon • December 11, 2011 at 7:17 pm • Reply

    Why did she wait seven years, never tell anyone, and never file a report? Sounds pretty fishy to me. He should counter sue for slander and defamation.

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    • Anon • December 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm • Reply

      Let’s not start by blaming the potential victim. Let’s hear the facts and find out what happened before we attack someone who may well be a victim in all of this.

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  3. Anon • December 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm • Reply

    She was found to be cheating and now she is trying to take it out on him. An employer probably questioned her bad grades, and now she is looking for an excuse. Yeah, lady, it’s the professors fault you were found cheating.

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    • Anon • December 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm • Reply

      Could be BUT this isn’t the first prof.’s sex-scandal…

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      • And yet • December 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm •

        Prof Martin had dedicated his life to human rights. I know the man. There is no way her accusations are true. Vile, vile libel.

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      • anon • December 13, 2011 at 1:18 am •

        @and yet. “i used to know the serial killer as a boy when he lived next door. he seemed so nice!”

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      • Nana • October 4, 2012 at 2:13 am •

        It’s worth noting the difrefence between DK requiring that bloggers post under a real name in his blog and the Southborough Board of Selectmen demanding that Susan reveal the identity of a certain blogger.Dan is in control of his blog and wants to maintain a respectable level of conversation. He’s well within his rights.Southborough, on the other hand, has no right to demand that information. If it’s a matter of libel or criminal activity, a court might require Susan to reveal the anonymous blogger.

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  4. Such a shame • December 11, 2011 at 11:02 pm • Reply

    These accusations makes me sick. Yes, Professor Martin is an incredible professor, there is no doubt about that–but arguing in his favor with that sort of logic will not absolve him of these allegations. What DOES vindicate him is that he is downright professional in every sense of the word. As a student of his who has formed a close working relationship with him, not once has there been even so much as a hint of indecent behavior on his part. And before any of you accuse me of being “ugly” or “not attractive enough to get hit on by an older professor,” I’m talking about his conduct not simply around me, but each and every day around dozens of people, younger and older women alike. At the risk of “victim blaming,” I find it suspicious that this woman graduated in 2008, and suddenly decided to file a lawsuit now. Also suspicious are the quotes she ascribes to him. Professor Martin is one of the most open-minded, liberal people I know. Granted, there are plenty of closeted racists out there, a handful of whom I’ve had as Columbia professors–but one of them he most certainly is not. Again, I am not “victim blaming.” I am simply stating the facts.

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    • anon • December 13, 2011 at 1:19 am • Reply

      I’m not saying that she’s lying, just….I’m saying that she’s definitely lying.

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    • Douglas • October 3, 2012 at 11:59 pm • Reply

      Being anonymous doesn’t matetr to me one way or the other.Unless the town’s government has a subpoena or, perhaps even if they have a subpoena, they are trying to chill the free expression of ideas and opinions.Since a name, any name, is merely an arbitrary assignment of a bunch of letters to an individual, what is stopping someone like, say, Samuel Clemens from calling himself Mark Twain.Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, I am sure, would agree with protection of anonymity.And remember, it was, is, and always will be one of the satirist’s favorite tools.

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  5. david mamet • December 12, 2011 at 12:59 am • Reply

    oleanna, anyone?

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  6. david • December 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm • Reply

    is that really david mamet, plugging his own play on this site? pretty pathetic.

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    • Emiliano • October 4, 2012 at 11:32 am • Reply

      While AA members are busy wrinokg the steps to supposedly fix their wrongdoings, ppl outside of AA are doing that on a minute to minute basis. Working the steps can sometimes take the aa member years and even then their so called amends are often never made under the loopholes provided (when it harms self or others). But I guess that is the way it goes in a masonic created cult. Fake it until you make it.

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  7. Jessica Eaton • January 24, 2013 at 4:36 am • Reply

    I only just saw this story as I am studying abroad and have been out of the loop. Mr. Martin is one of the most inspirational professors that the University has and his dedication to the field of human rights is outstanding. I took his class last semester and he changed my perspectives, made me passionate about my major, encouraged me to question the media, and guided me on internship options like no other professor ever has. This is an outrageous accusation and I say with certainty it is not true.

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  8. Anonymous • February 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm • Reply

    Don’t be so ‘certain’. What you consider to be an ‘outrageous accusation’ may very well be an ‘outrageous example of sexual harassment and retaliation’ on a university campus.

    While this professor may very well be one of your most inspirational professors there is now a 2nd sexual harassment and retaliation complaint filed against him. The 2nd complaint was filed with the courts January 2013 and within Columbia University in 2002. The complaints are well detailed and documented.

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  9. Anon • April 7, 2013 at 6:02 am • Reply

    Whether this professor did or did not do something is what will be decided here. I understand that many of you day he was an upstanding teacher and was much loved. I have no direct experience with him and cannot comment. However, during my time at Columbia, my well respected, beloved mentor/professor made multiple sexual advances to me, all unwelcome and awkward and all out of character of the ‘prof who was adored by colleagues/students and who has been at the school for over ten years.

    Basically, you just don’t know, so wait and see what gets decided,don’t place your own bias on this situation.

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