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Former Shippensburg University student sues school, claiming sexual harassment from her female supervisor

The supervisor, an assistant dean, allegedly pressured the ex-student to join her and a man in a threesome, the federal lawsuit claims

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — A former Shippensburg University student has filed a federal lawsuit against the school, claiming administration did nothing to help her when she complained that she was being sexually harassed by her female supervisor, an assistant dean who continually pressured the student to join her in group sex.

The student claims her repeated refusal to engage in sexual activity with the assistant dean led to her termination from her graduate studies program, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. Middle District Court.

Neither the student, a Shippensburg-area resident, nor the assistant dean, whom the lawsuit said worked in the university's Office of Professional, Continuing, and Distance Education, are identified in the lawsuit.

The former student student claims that when she told the dean of OPCDE of her supervisor's sexual advances, the dean "told (her) that she did not want to hear about it," the lawsuit says.

The plaintiff claims the assistant dean began making sexual advances toward her in January 2019, asking her "to participate in a manage a trois with her and another man," according to the lawsuit.

After the OPCDE dean did nothing to assist the plaintiff, the assistant dean's sexual advances continued as often as four times a week, the lawsuit states. 

The harassment included repeating her proposition to engage in a menage a trois, showing the former student photos and text messages of a sexual nature, and discussing details of her sex life," the plaintiff says. 

During a business trip to Philadelphia in the spring of 2019, the plaintiff claims, the assistant dean showed the plaintiff nude photos of herself acting as a sexual dominatrix.

The supervisor showed "extreme disappointment" when the plaintiff told her "she did not need to see (the) photos," the lawsuit says, and implied that the plaintiff's job would be at risk if she did not agree to participate in a threesome with the assistant dean.

The plaintiff claims she went to the dean of the OPCDE a second time, and again the dean did nothing, saying he did not want to hear about it "because (the assistant dean) was her friend," according to the lawsuit. 

The sexual harassment continued until August 2019, when the plaintiff and the assistant dean went on another business trip to New Orleans, the lawsuit says.

On that trip, the plaintiff claimed she rejected another sexual advance from the assistant dean, who allegedly told the plaintiff she was going onto a dating site to find a man and asked the plaintiff again to join her in a threesome.

The plaintiff "rejected this sexual advance and firmly advised (the assistant dean) that she had a boyfriend and did not do that kind of thing," the lawsuit says.

At this, the assistant dean became upset and left the work conference at New Orleans early, the plaintiff claims.

When the plaintiff returned from the trip, she claims she was told that she no longer had a job with the assistant dean.

The plaintiff again visited the OPCDE's full dean and reported the alleged harassment, and the full dean again refused to listen, the plaintiff claims in the lawsuit.

A few days later, the university's vice-president of human resources and the dean of the OPCDE met with the plaintiff to discuss allegations of her "unprofessional behavior" made by her supervisor, the lawsuit says.

When the vice-president asked the plaintiff why she hadn't made any complaints earlier, the plaintiff looked at the dean of the OPCDE and said she had, according to the lawsuit.

The dean did not deny that the plaintiff had made previous complaints, the lawsuit tates.

The plaintiff then filed a Title IX lawsuit, attaching text messages from her supervisor that she said proved the harassment. 

The assistant dean was placed on leave after the lawsuit was filed, the lawsuit claims.

She later resigned, but the student was not reinstated to her job by the university, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the university displayed "blatant disregard for her civil rights" in their handling of the claims, and says the plaintiff is seeking unspecified financial compensation.

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