Student says the former Columbia dean forced her, sues school

NEW YORK – A Columbia University student who said she was forced to have a sexual relationship with a former dean and the university failed to protect her has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the school on Tuesday.

In the suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, the plaintiff identified as “Jane Doe” she said, and she went to the university for help after rape in May and was sent to Tom Harford, dean of students at one of Colombia’s three bachelor’s schools, because they need emergency housing.

She said that he manipulated her into a sexual relationship through its need for grant funding.

According to the court papers, “Harford used his power and influence in Columbia to compel the plaintiff in an inappropriate sexual and romantic relationship.”

The suit said other officials at the school were aware of the degree of interaction between the two, but did nothing to the protection of the plaintiff.

In his statement, Columbia said it could not comment on litigation, but “Harford was promptly removed from his position as dean of students when we learned the behavior that was unacceptable in the light of his responsibilities. … We take this matter very seriously. Our priority is providing a safe and supportive learning environment that fosters the intellectual and personal development of our students.”

Harford could not be reached for comment.

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