Dartmouth, women want mediation in sexual misconduct lawsuit

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Dartmouth College and nine women who accuse the school of ignoring years of sexual misconduct by three professors have agreed to try to settle a lawsuit out of court.

In a joint motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord, New Hampshire, the school and the women asked a judge for a stay of all deadlines and rulings until three days after agreed-to mediation or July 31, whichever comes first. The judge hasn’t responded yet.

“The parties have been in discussion about participating in mediation in an attempt to resolve this matter without further litigation,” the motion said.

The parties said they recently selected a retired state superior court judge who is now a professional mediator and are working on setting a date to meet.

The November lawsuit accuses Dartmouth of failing to take action to address years of sexual harassment, assault and other misconduct suffered by students at the hands of three Department of Psychological and Brain Science professors. It was initially filed by seven women, one of them anonymously. Two more joined anonymously earlier this month. Dartmouth challenged the use of “Jane Doe” pseudonyms for three of the nine plaintiffs, saying the anonymity would prejudice Dartmouth’s ability to defend itself.

In its original response to the lawsuit, Dartmouth said it was unaware of the allegations until it was alerted by scores of female students.

The original 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.

Dartmouth’s original response 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.”

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