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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