CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Dartmouth College said it was unaware of sexual misconduct allegations against three professors until it was alerted by scores of female students.
The college’s comment Tuesday is its first response to a federal lawsuit accusing it of ignoring the behavior. The college also said it has evidence of some inappropriate behavior, but not of the more serious allegations of assault.
A federal lawsuit filed in November by seven current and former students accused Dartmouth of failing to take action to address years of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior by professors in the Department of Psychological and Brain Science.
The lawsuit alleges that professors William Kelley, Paul Whalen and Todd Heatherton harassed women and groped them. It also accuses Kelley and Whalen each of raping a student after a night of drinking, attempting to seduce women under their supervision and punishing those who rebuffed their advances.
All three have since left Dartmouth.
Whalen and Kelley have not commented on the allegations, and it is unclear whether they have attorneys to speak for them. Heatherton apologized for acting inappropriately at conferences but said, through a lawyer, that he never socialized or had sexual relations with students.
Once alerted to the allegations in April, Dartmouth said it sought to end the professors’ tenure and employment, but, before it could act, Heatherton retired and Whalen and Kelley resigned.
The college said there was an “unacceptable environment involving excess alcohol consumption, an inappropriate level of fraternization, and inappropriate personal comments and contact” between the three professors and some students. It also said it has evidence the professors inappropriately touched students and texted them but said it lacked evidence to support the more serious assault allegations and denied that the behavior affected all women in the department. It also denied that the department as a whole had a “party culture.”
The college said it applauded the courage of the women who came forward with the complaints.
“Dartmouth did not condone any misconduct by the former faculty members, nor did it fail to address complaints brought to its attention,” Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said in a statement.
”Dartmouth will defend itself as an institution. Dartmouth will not defend the actions of these three former faculty members in court or elsewhere.”
New policies, training
In October 2017, Dartmouth launched what it has called “a rigorous and objective review” of the three professors. It never released the findings and was preparing to fire all three when they left.
Earlier this month, Dartmouth announced a series of measures in response to the scandal, including an outside review of all academic departments and a revision of its sexual misconduct policy. It also will start mandatory training on the federal law barring gender discrimination and promised to put more resources into mental health.