Universities face #MeToo movement over sexual harassment

WASHINGTON — When Celeste Kidd was a graduate student of neuroscience at the University of Rochester she says a professor supervising her made her life unbearable by stalking her, making demeaning comments about her weight and talking about sex.

Ten years on and now a professor of neuroscience at the university, Kidd is taking legal action. She has filed a federal lawsuit against the school alleging that it mishandled its sexual harassment investigation into the professor’s actions and then retaliated against her and her colleagues for reporting the misconduct.

“We are trying to bring transparency to a system that is corrupt,” Kidd told The Associated Press.

Academia — like Hollywood, the media and Congress — is facing its own #MeToo movement over allegations of sexual misconduct. Brett Sokolow, who heads an association of sexual harassment investigators on campuses, estimates that the number of reported complaints has risen by about 10 percent since the accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced in early October, spurring more women to speak out against harassment in various fields.  The increase is mostly from women complaining of harassment by faculty members who are their superiors.

But the Trump administration has viewed the issue of sexual harassment on campus in a different light. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has scrapped Obama-era regulations on investigating sexual assault, arguing that they were skewed in favor of the accuser. New instructions allow universities to require higher standards of evidence when handling such complaints.