Here, the plaintiff was a student at the defendant-college. The plaintiff took a course with a professor, had a positive experience and ultimately majored in the subject of the class. The professor became the plaintiff’s academic advisor. Subsequently, the professor began to sexually harass the plaintiff. When the plaintiff refused the professor’s advances, he grew angry and threatened to make her life very difficult. He withheld academic support for her and ridiculed her in front of faculty. He also gave her a poor mark for her work as an intern without ever consulting the supervisor at the company. The plaintiff reported the harassment to faculty members (to a professor and the dean of the college). The plaintiff also reported the harassment in a paper to a professor, but no action was taken in response. The plaintiff eventually spoke with another professor about the harassment but wished to remain anonymous for fear of worse treatment by the professor. That professor then told the chair of the college’s art department. Further, more students had reported the harassment of the plaintiff. Action was not taken against the professor though because the plaintiff wished to remain anonymous and the school would not act without a “firsthand account.” After the plaintiff graduated, she wrote to the dean who was acting as interim president of the school that she was harassed as a student. The professor was then dismissed on the ground of moral delinquency. The plaintiff then sued the defendant for vicarious liability for the professor’s sexual harassment. She also claimed breach of fiduciary duty. The court found that there was a fiduciary relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant; the plaintiff depended on the defendant for her education and relied upon the defendant to adopt and enforce practices to minimize danger that students will be exposed to sexual harassment. The court did not analyze the school’s liability under the hostile environment theory as it found the school guilty of a breach of fiduciary duty. Thus, in an academic setting, a plaintiff may be entitled to relief for harassment under a breach of fiduciary duty in addition to the usual hostile environment claims.
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