A new lawsuit alleges that a Columbia University Dean used his administrative position and monetary gifts to coerce a “desperate” student into a sexual relationship. With the promise of scholarships, housing help, and cash gifts, Dean Tom Harford allegedly pursued a romantic relationship with a student under shady circumstances. In the court of public opinion, this act likely falls under the category of consent through coercion. Though the plaintiff may have willingly been a participant in this relationship, the power structure of a university dean and student lends credence to the lawsuit’s allegations of misconduct.
The plaintiff, 25, filed a $50 million lawsuit against Columbia University claiming that Dean of Students Tom Harford used financial favors in exchange for a sexual relationship with a younger female student. This student, referred to in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, was in dire straits after housing issues stemming from a separate rape allegation at an acquaintance’s apartment. After reporting this rape to the police, Jane Doe went to her Dean of Students for housing help. Sensing her desperation, Harford offered $500 cash as well as the promise of scholarships and housing to the student in exchange for illicit sexual acts. These gifts and promises allegedly began several months before and continued throughout the summer. Columbia University came under fire in the lawsuit for “failing to protect a student” from the sexually inappropriate advances of one of their administrators. In the suit, Doe claims that the University was aware of the inappropriate texts, calls, and harassment but failed to act on it.
Who is Tom Harford?
Tom Harford is a former administrator at Columbia University where he held the position of Dean of Students in the School of General Studies. Harford was removed from his position before the 2018 fall semester when Columbia University was made aware of these allegations. The official reasoning behind his removal as stated by the University is “unacceptable conduct.” Not much information can be found about Harford, as Columbia has already removed his page from the School of General Studies Online Directory.