Lawsuit Filed Against Dartmouth

The suit alleges that Dartmouth did not adequately respond to complaints of sexual misconduct.

In a lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire, seven former students and current students allege that Dartmouth did not adequately respond to their complaints of sexual misconduct in cases involving three former faculty members in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS).

The case, a class-action suit seeking $70 million in damages, was filed this morning in the Concord federal court by attorneys from Concord, New York City, and Baltimore who are representing the seven women.

In an email informing the campus community of the filing, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 this morning wrote that “we respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the characterizations of Dartmouth’s actions in the complaint and will respond through our own court filings … but remain  “open to a fair resolution of the students’ claims through an alternative to the court process.”

A date for the first hearing in the case has not been set.

The cases concern three faculty members who were investigated by the College following accusations of sexual misconduct. William Kelley and Paul Whalen resigned in July and June, respectively, following recommendations from the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that they lose tenure and that their employment be terminated. Todd Heatherton retired in June following the same recommendation. He was able to retire given his age and length of employment, an option not available to Kelley and Whalen. The three men are banned from campus and from attending any Dartmouth-sponsored event, no matter where the event is held.

In today’s email, Hanlon reiterated what he has emphasized in a number of communications throughout the course of the investigations—that sexual misconduct and harassment will not be tolerated at Dartmouth. In addition, he applauded “the courage displayed by members of our community within PBS who brought the misconduct allegations to Dartmouth’s attention last year.

“We conducted a rigorous, thorough, and fair review of the allegations, consisting of three separate investigations led by an experienced external investigator who interviewed more than 50 witnesses and reviewed extensive documentation. Throughout this disciplinary process, we took steps to protect the privacy and procedural rights of all the parties involved,” he wrote.

“I know I speak for the board of trustees and Dartmouth’s senior leadership when I say that we are dedicated to maintaining a safe and inclusive campus for all members of our community.”

Dartmouth is working to create a unified policy on sexual misconduct applicable to all members of the College community. Currently there are different policies for faculty, students, and staff. A unified policy would provide clarity and consistency across the institution, setting uniform expectations and processes for the three groups.

The proposed policy follows work by the Presidential Steering Committee on Sexual Misconduct, which was appointed in February and spent several months reviewing best practices at peer institutions, hosting listening sessions for members of the community, and identifying parameters to inform development of proactive policies and training plans.

Dartmouth is soliciting community input on a draft of the new policy and procedures for responding to allegations against students, faculty, and staff.

Dartmouth offers a range of support services to all, including those who have made reports of sexual assault and misconduct or would like to make reports. The services can be found on Dartmouth’s sexual respect website at http://dartgo.org/sexualrespect.