Ohio University settled a federal sexual harassment lawsuit in May, awarding $90,000 to a graduate student who alleged that the institution infringed on her civil rights by empowering faculty to abuse their authority.
The payment will be awarded to Tess Herman for the “alleged physical and related emotional injuries” she endured at the hands of the institution and OU journalism professor Yusuf Kalyango, according to the settlement agreement.
Herman and her lawyer, Michael Fradin, filed the suit in January of 2019 against both the university and Kalyango.
“Tess has demonstrated amazing strength, courage, persistence and patience throughout years of legal proceedings with OU.
Her efforts will help pave the path toward truly equal access in higher education,” Fradin told The Athens NEWS.
The lawsuit alleged that Kalyango unsuccessfully attempted to coerce Herman, his student, into sharing a hotel room with him on a university-sponsored trip to Africa, among many other instances of unwanted romantic advances toward her.
The professor allegedly retaliated against Herman after she declined to spend the night in the room with him by falsifying her job performance evaluations to make her seem less competent in the workplace, resulting in a violation of Herman’s rights under federal Title IX law, according to the lawsuit.
Herman notified two university employees who were mandatory reporters about the unwanted advances Kalyango made on her, and both failed to report Herman’s complaints to the OU Office of University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance (ECRC) because they were reportedly not trained to do so, the lawsuit said.
The OU ECRC previously conducted an investigation into Kalyango’s conduct and found through a preponderance of evidence that he sexually harassed another student who he supervised during the 2011-2012 academic year, according to a previous report in The Athens NEWS.
Kalyango is still employed by the university to conduct research, but he no longer has contact with students in that role, OU Spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said in an email.
Leatherwood, however, declined to comment on the nature of Kalyango’s research or where specifically he is conducting it. The professor is currently undergoing a formal process in accordance with the OU faculty handbook that will revoke his tenure, Leatherwood said.
The university previously filed a motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit, The Athens NEWS reported in March of 2019.
The university said at that time in a response to the lawsuit that it doesn’t deny the results of its Title IX investigation – finding that Kalyango sexually harassed Herman, who worked in programs led by Kalyango in 2017, and created a hostile work environment for that student, through a “preponderance of evidence” standard.
However, the university in its response denied that it was liable for any alleged misconduct by Kalyango, and argued that it did not have “actual knowledge” of the alleged harassment Herman was receiving up until Herman approached OU’s Title IX office.
Herman agreed to be available, participate and testify in the tenure removal process, according to the settlement.