Nacht Law lawsuit on behalf of former University of Michigan Engineering Graduate Student Jennifer Dibbern alleges the existence of pervasive sexual harassment and a hostile environment that denies female graduate students an equal educational experience. In the lawsuit filed on December 21, 2012, Dibbern alleges that as a graduate student in the University’s College of Engineering, she was met with a sexually hostile environment from day one, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and demeaning sexual comments. Dibbern alleges that her continuous and repeated reports of this harassment were met with indifference from faculty and administration, eventually leading to her getting kicked out of the program for her efforts to avoid harassment, and her advocacy of effective prevention and training.
Can it be that an internal “conflict resolution” grievance is the sole legal remedy for female students faced with a pervasive, sexually hostile environment? Is it possible that the University’s obligations end there, with no requirement to take affirmative steps to fix the broken system? Dibbern and her attorneys argue that this is not the case, and recent guidance from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights would seem to agree.
In defense, the University is claiming that it has no duty under Title IX or state law to provide sexual assault prevention or training to its graduate students or their faculty advisors. No doubt, many in higher education administration will be watching as this case develops, and closely scrutinizing the rulings for guidance on the scope of Title IX’s requirements. Dibbern is represented by Nacht Law attorney David Blanchard in the case pending in front of Judge Cox in the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
For more information on the case, contact Nacht Law attorney David Blanchard. If you are aware of sexual harassment in University of Michigan Graduate Programs you may have valuable information for the case, and we want to hear from you. Such instances may include student on student sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual conduct by professors and faculty, discouragement from using internal grievance processes or outright retaliation for reporting sexual harassment or assault. A hostile environment not only affects the student, but undermines the ability of an entire group to get a fair and equal educational experience.