Title IX Lawsuit Against UNL Can Move Forward, Judge Decides

Jan. 7, 2022, 2:30 p.m. ·

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A judge in Nebraska's federal district court decided a Title IX lawsuit against the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can move forward. (Photo by Elizabeth Rembert, Nebraska Public Media News)

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A Title IX lawsuit against the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is progressing in federal court. An anonymous woman is suing the school for not protecting her after a professor harassed her.

In the latest court order, Judge John Gerrard decided the woman has enough information to argue UNL did not respond properly after her Ph.D. adviser kissed her on the lips, repeatedly tried to hug her, told her he loved her, kicked her legs and sent her messages of a sexual nature.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe, reported the harassment to the university’s Title IX office. A university investigation concluded the man had violated the school’s sexual harassment policy. UNL officials assigned the woman a new advisor, barred contact between the woman and the professor and agreed to pay for the remaining six credits of her degree.

But then the man continued to make contact with the woman. She felt uncomfortable and unsafe, and asked the Title IX office for more help. She says she never received any follow up, so she transferred to another school due to UNL’s failure to “protect her from continued stalking and harassment.”

Karen Truszkowski, one of the woman’s attorneys, says the judge’s decision to allow the suit to move forward demonstrates that cursory action wasn’t enough.

“They could have said, 'Look, they made attempts. You know, just because they didn't do it perfectly, doesn't mean they were deliberately indifferent," Truszkowski said. "And he made a point to say, 'You basically ignored her when the guy came after her again, after there was a no contact order.'”

In a statement, a UNL spokesperson says the early ruling doesn’t mean the woman’s allegations are true. It means the judge believes the woman has enough information to argue her claims are true. The statement also notes the university is encouraged the judge dismissed three of the woman’s 10 claims.

Truszkowski says the dismissed claims were less important than the one that remains: the allegation that UNL’s Title IX office did not follow federal rules to protect the woman and prevent harassment.