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Minnesota Department of Human Rights Settles with the University of Minnesota Board of Regents after a Humphrey School Professor Sexually Harassed a Graduate Student

[St. Paul, MN] Marking the third sexual harassment case the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) announced this week, MDHR today announced a settlement agreement with the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. The settlement requires the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to take action to prevent sexual harassment, pay a graduate student $75,000, and allow the student to complete her degree tuition-free. 

“Schools should be places where students go to learn more about the world and what kind of person they’re going to be. They cannot be places where professors sexually harass students,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. “What should have been a safe and sacred relationship between a professor and a student instead became an unsafe and abusive space. Sexual harassment must stop. Students deserve better.”

MDHR’s investigation found that in 2018, a professor used his position of power to sexually harass a graduate student. The professor made sexual comments in front of her, told her about sex he had with other women, and commented on her appearance in front of her classmates. He also told her that he wanted to be her boyfriend and asked her to move into his home.  

The unequal power dynamic between the professor and the student was very apparent. She was not only his student, but also reported directly to the professor as a research assistant. He had influence over her grades, employment, and reputation within the school. The professor was also a gatekeeper to her career after graduate school. 

The professor’s conduct violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the state’s civil rights law, which prohibits sexual harassment.

The settlement requires Humphrey School to:

  • Allow the graduate student to complete her degree tuition-free and pay her $75,000 for damages and attorney fees.
  • Provide harassment and bystander training to students and faculty so they know how to recognize and report inappropriate behavior such as sexual harassment and sexual grooming. 
  • Send quarterly communications to faculty reminding them of their responsibility to refrain from and report harassment. 
  • Send quarterly communications to students encouraging them to report harassment. 
  • Distribute the school’s sexual harassment policy, resources, and reporting information to students at the beginning of each academic year. 

To ensure compliance with the agreement, MDHR will monitor the school for four years. 

This case is the third sexual harassment case MDHR announced this week, further demonstrating that sexual harassment is pervasive and persistent. On Tuesday, MDHR sued a McDonald's franchisee for workplace sexual assault and harassment. Then on Wednesday, MDHR announced a settlement agreement with Bruening Rock after finding the company refused to address sexual harassment. 

If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment or any other type of discrimination covered under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or submit this online form.

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