A Princeton professor found responsible of sexually harassing his graduate student in June has been allowed to keep his job after completing eight hours of training, The Huffington Post reported.
Third-year Engineering graduate student Yeohee Im submitted a complaint about Engineering professor Sergio Verdu, Princeton University in April 2017 — launching a two-month investigation which found him "responsible for sexual harassment."
Verdu will have to attend an an eight-hour training session, but still remains employed by the university, The Daily Princetonian reported.
Debate surrounding the verdict given to Verdu comes at a time when various high-level educators across the country are receiving allegations of sexual harassment. Earlier this month, a Boston University professor was found responsible for making “derogatory, sex-based slurs and sexual comments” to Jane Willenbring, a former Penn associate professor. Faculty at various other universities, including Dartmouth College, the University of Virginia, and Michigan State University, have also been found responsible for similar events.
Im started working with Verdu in January 2016 on her thesis. In February 2017, Verdu invited Im to watch a movie at his home. Although Im told friends that she was worried about spending time alone with her professor, she decided to go anyway. They watched "The Handmaiden" — a Korean movie known for having explicit content — while Verdu put his arm around her and asked if she had a boyfriend, the Huffington Post reported.
“It was happening in his home,” Im said to the Huffington Post. “I was panicking, can this be sexual harassment? I know that his daughter is a similar age to me.”
The next month, Verdu told Im to call him by his first name and invited her over again to watch a movie and drink wine. When Im spilled some of the wine on her shirt, Verdu attempted to clean it by reaching under the shirt and touching the bottom of her bra, stomach, and thigh. During the incident, Im repeatedly told Verdu to stop.
Im emailed Verdu the next morning saying the previous night had made her uncomfortable. A few weeks later, Im told a different professor about the incident who then reported it to Princeton’s Title IX office.
The office emailed Im back in June, stating that Verdu was found guilty of sexual harassment and would have to attend an an eight-hour training session as a punishment, The Daily Princetonian reported.
Princeton U-Councilor Pooja Patel added at a Princeton Undergraduate Student Government meeting that there have been other allegations against Verdu, but that no one other than Im has made public accusations.
“There is just a huge disparity in power between a Ph.D. student and advisor that can affect you really for the rest of your professional career,” Patel said.
Earlier this year, graduate student leaders at Penn launched a petition calling on Penn to inform students of what they planned to do to protect them from sexual harassment.
"Especially for graduate students who work for Penn, the power and supervisory role of faculty can make reporting difficult and retaliation a serious threat," the petition read.
Since the incident, Im has changed her focus and has stopped working with Verdu, though she still has to see him in the building every day.
“Although it is not easy to share how I was taken advantage of, I am speaking out,” Im said. “Because I hope more people become aware of how dangerous sexual harassment is, so they can avoid the same situation. I hope this story can give the university a lesson on what kind of actions they have to take in order to protect victims and prevent this from happening again.”
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