An assistant professor at Columbia University’s business school has filed a Title IX gender discrimination lawsuit against the university, alleging that she was sexually harassed by a male colleague. Columbia officials, she charges, “dismissed and belittled” her claims. The suit also says that the school “does not support or promote its female faculty as it does the men.”
Enrichetta Ravina, an assistant professor of finance and economics, filed suit against Columbia Tuesday, the New York Times reports. She alleges that Professor Geert Bekaert, a professor of finance and economics focusing on global investments, offered her unique access to a data set. Bakaert told her, she says, that he was able to see it because he had a relationship with the company who owned it. He added, Ravina says, per the NYT, that “the company had the right to revoke access, and Mr. Bekaert could influence it to do so.”
Ravina says she spent two years working with the data; once she’d reached the point where it was crucial and where losing access to it would have “grievously delayed” or ruined her career, she says, the harassment began. From the lawsuit:
He infused their conversations and meetings with sexual content, including talking about how often he viewed pornography, applauding the use of prostitutes, and describing his sexual exploits. He sought an intimate relationship with Ms. Ravina, insisting that she meet him off-campus, touching her inappropriately, demanding that she compliment him, describing her as “sexy,” and indicating that he was “horny.”
When she rejected him, Ravina says, Bakaert “sabotaged her work,” delaying and undermining joint projects: “The more she resisted his sexual advances, the worse his behavior became.”
When she complained to people in power, including Columbia Business School Dean R. Glenn Hubbard, their response ranged from nonexistent to insulting, Ravina alleges, with one unnamed person calling her situation a “soap opera” and “accusing her of flirting with her harasser.”
Ravina also alleges in the suit that Columbia actively retaliated against her, revoking paid leave she had planned for this academic year and shortening the amount of time she had to submit her application materials for tenure.
Ravina has also filed a separate lawsuit against Bakaert personally, the NYT reports. “I never really wanted to be in this position, but this was the only thing I could do,” she told the paper.“I felt really betrayed. I thought the university should have solved this.”
Bakaert denied the allegations to the NYT:
“I am sickened that a colleague — I was never Prof. Ravina’s supervisor or superior — would manufacture false stories, statements and events and attempt to destroy my reputation,” Mr. Bekaert said in an emailed statement.
“In reality,” he added, “this is a sad example of no good deed goes unpunished: We collaborated for years doing research with a unique data set I had obtained from a company I worked for, and in return she fabricated a series of completely false allegations about me, some today for the first time.”
Ravina is requesting front pay, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages exceeding $20 million, and for the court to order that she be given until 2018 to submit her tenure package. She’s requesting a trial by jury.
This lawsuit is one of several cases as of late accusing professors of sexual harassment; others have come up at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago. At Columbia proper, the undergrads have spent the past few years warring with their school over what they label a mishandling of sexual assault cases among students.
Enrichetta Ravina and Geert Bakaert. Screenshots via YouTube/Columbia Business School