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Lawsuit alleges sexual harassment, racial discrimination against University employee

| Friday, October 30, 2015

A student filed a lawsuit against the University on Friday seeking damages for alleged sexual harassment and racial discrimination by an employee of Notre Dame, according to court documents acquired and posted by WSBT.

The suit alleges a white University employee — “Jane Roe”  — coerced the plaintiff — “John Doe,” an African-American student at the University — into a sexual relationship with her daughter, who attends a “nearby school” but is also an employee of the University.

The suit also alleges University administrators knew  about the misconduct and, citing Title VI and Title IX, had a responsibility to intervene for the student’s wellbeing, which was compromised by a racially and sexually hostile environment.

According to court documents, “Jane Roe” allegedly engaged in the following behaviors in the spring of 2015:

“commanding, directing, encouraging, and convincing Plaintiff John Doe to engage in sexual relations with Defendant Jane Roe’s own daughter; arranging for sexual liaisons for Plaintiff John Doe; interrogating Plaintiff John about the nature, frequency, and quality of the sexual activities he had with Defendant Jane Roe’s daughter; harassing and demeaning Plaintiff John Doe with racially-charged comments;

“pressuring Plaintiff John Doe to remain in the sexual relationship against his will; providing lodging, transportation, hotel rooms, and condoms for sexual excursions across state lines; and engaging in threatening behavior towards Plaintiff John Doe as he attempted to end the sexual relationship with her daughter.”

The defendant, who served in “a role designed to provide academic support and counseling to students and student-athletes,” allegedly targeted other African-American males at the University including members of the football and basketball teams, according to court documents.

When the student sought to end the relationship with the woman’s daughter, the defendant allegedly “utilized her position at the University to convince the Plaintiff John Doe of his need for mental counseling, arranging for Plaintiff John Doe to be seen by psychiatric support employed by the [University],” according to court documents.

The defendant also allegedly sought to pressure the student into converting to Catholicism, according to the suit.

The suit goes on to say that the plaintiff was then seen by an employee who was “a friend and confidant” of the defendant, and who “sought to medicate Plaintiff John Doe to keep him passive, cooperative, and under control to forestall any exposure of this exploitative and perverse conduct and hostile environment.”

University vice president for public affairs and communications Paul Browne said the University is aware of the suit, but denies all allegations of misconduct.

“The allegations against the University of Notre Dame in the complaint
are unfounded, as are gratuitous and unfounded references to ‘student
athletes’ — an allegation that is nothing more than a cynical attempt
to attract publicity,” Browne said in a statement.

 

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  • Kathryn Pogin

    The university’s response here is a lesson in what not to say to complaints of sexual misconduct. Given that the student has claimed this situation was brought to the university’s attention just a few weeks ago, but that the university failed to act to remedy the situation, hence his decision to file suit — one might wonder on what basis Notre Dame could claim that his allegations have no merit. Have they conducted an investigation so quickly? Also, stunning to accuse the student of attempting to cynically seek publicity when he has filed as a John Doe. That’s quite the way to try to distract from the fact that he alleges his claims can be corroborated by students on two different athletic teams.

    Rather than say “We’re taking this concern seriously,” the university made a decision to go after the student’s credibility in a way that was wholly unnecessary, and I would imagine, hurtful. I wish, as an alumna and a human being, Notre Dame could do better than that.

  • João Pedro Santos

    The vice-president for public affairs should face consequences for what he said.