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Dartmouth Professors Allegedly Used Their Positions to Sexually Assault Students

Todd F. Heatherton, William M. Kelley, and Paul J. Whalen are all under criminal investigation for sexual assault of their students at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Dartmouth, in Havover, N.H., and seven women have filed a $70 million lawsuit alleging the attacks.


Toward one student, Whalen “repeatedly threatened to harm [the student] academically after she refused to engage in his sexual banter,” the complaint says.

Kelley threatened another student with claims to “deprive her of academic guidance and refuse to schedule meetings to discuss her research.”

Kelley and Whalen have not spoken publicly since they resigned.

Heatherton acknowledged a 2002 incident in which he allegedly “grabbed a female graduate student’s breasts and told her that she was ‘not doing very well,'” according to the complaint.

“I acknowledge that I acted unprofessionally in public at conferences while intoxicated,” he said. “I offer a humble and sincere apology to anyone affected by my actions.”

But he denied “playing any role in creating a toxic environment” and didn’t want to be labeled as the other professors. He claims none of the students in the lawsuit were his graduate students.

In addition to the money, the former graduate students want the college to change its Title IX process and improve treatment of people who report incidents of abuse, they said in an interview.

Kristina Rapuano and Vassiki Chauhan said they were raped by Kelley and Whalen, respectively. Annemarie Brown, Andrea Courtney, Sasha Brietzke, and Marissa Evans are also plaintiffs. One chose to remain anonymous in the lawsuit. None of them felt supported when they went to administrators about what happened.

“These men had all of the power in the department. They controlled all of the resources.Opting out of the boys club culture meant that you were cut off from those resources,” Andrea Courtney said.

In 2002, the university’s response to complaints against Heatherton was to promote him, according to the lawsuit. Sixteen years later, the Ivy League university, with predominantly white male leadership, continued to let this predatory culture persist.

The statement from the university’s president said, in part:

We conducted a rigorous, thorough, and fair review of the allegations, consisting of three separate investigations conducted 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.

One year ago, 15 students graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral signed a statement alleging the same men violated the schools sexual misconduct, harassment, and instructor-student consensual relationships policies, and created a “hostile academic environment in which sexual harassment is normalized.”

The group requested anonymity because the professors sat on grant-proposal review boards and were members of academic organizations that could impact the students’ careers.

Karen Kelsky, an academic career consultant in Eugene, Ore., and former anthropology professor, created a survey of sexual assault by administrators and faculty across the country over the last year has over 2,400 anonymous entries.

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