A former Columbia University undergraduate is suing the institution and Thomas Harford, former dean of students of the School of General Studies, for $60 million, alleging that Harford coerced her into a sexual relationship last summer and that Columbia failed to protect her from him. The student initially filed her lawsuit for $50 million in August as Jane Doe. She filed an amended complaint this week using her real name. The suit alleges that the student went to Harford for help after a traumatic event and that he subsequently manipulated her into a relationship with loosely veiled threats of violence and by using her need for scholarship funds as “bait.” The complaint also says that Columbia knew Harford had an alleged history of harassing women and that it retaliated against the student for complaining about the dean by forcing her to give up her campus housing while she took medical leave.
The university said in a statement that upon learning of the allegations against Harford in August, it immediately removed Harford from his position as dean and terminated his employment. Columbia “and its officials had no knowledge of the events prompting the complaint before they were officially reported to us,” it said. “Harford is prohibited from ever returning to our campus. These actions were taken in a matter of days, reflecting Columbia’s commitment to the safety and well-being of our students.” Harford could not immediately be reached for comment.