The students contend that African and African American studies professor John Comaroff was harassing them and threatening to hinder their careers, WBUR-FM News reports.
All three women lodged complaints with Harvard’s Office for Dispute Resolution in July 2020 alleging that the school was in violation of Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination in education.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston asserts that one of the students, Lilia Kilburn, was subjected to repeated forcible kissing and groping by Comaroff as early as 2017.
Comaroff also told Kilburn that if she chose to study abroad in Africa, she could be subjected to violence there because she was in a same-sex relationship, the lawsuit asserted.
Two other students, Margaret Czerwienski and Amula Mandaya, allege that when they reported Comaroff's behavior to university administrators, he retaliated against them by threatening to derail their careers.
Comaroff, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said in a statement from his lawyers that he “categorically denies ever harassing or retaliating against any student.”
A Harvard spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, but a letter from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean said Comaroff had been put on administrative leave last month for the remainder of the spring semester after university investigators found that he engaged in verbal conduct that violated both the school's sexual and gender-based and professional conduct policies.