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Professor was accused of inappropriate comments about female students. Now he's suing

Jack Howland, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in News & Features

FORT WORTH, Texas -- In the fall of 2017, at least three female students in a University of North Texas graduate class alleged their professor had made inappropriate comments about them.

Dr. Justin Trudeau, a tenured professor who arrived at the Denton college in 2005, learned of the complaints in December 2017, he wrote in a lawsuit he filed against the university last week. In the lawsuit, he disputes the allegations and criticizes the school's handling of them.

The students, who were kept anonymous, alleged Trudeau had made inappropriate comments about them during the course, which focused on adaptation and staging in theater. The comments, they said, left them feeling embarrassed and afraid to speak up in class.

In one instance, Trudeau allegedly called students' performance "hot" and "erotic," according to the suit. He was similarly accused of giving one student sexualized feedback during a performance and telling another he would give her an A "if she convinced other students to perform in a sexual manner on stage, and questioned the pregnancy status of other students."

Also, he was accused of calling one student "a psychopath" when he learned the individual had a mental health condition, the suit states.

The university's Office of Equal Opportunity, which conducted a roughly five-month investigation into the claims, determined there was "sufficient evidence" to show Trudeau had violated policies relating to sexual harassment and non-discrimination, according to the suit.

 

In November 2018, the University Grievance Committee wrote to Trudeau to tell him their punishment, the suit says -- two years without merit pay, or additional income based on performance. He was also not allowed to teach classes during the 2018 summer, he wrote in the suit.

But since this incident was a first-time case and there was support for Trudeau as a professor, the committee wrote to Trudeau, he wasn't ordered to take sexual harassment training.

"We believe in maintaining an educational environment free from harassment and discrimination," a UNT spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "The university found Professor Trudeau did not meet those expectations, and the appropriate disciplinary actions were taken."

Trudeau -- who outlined the allegations made against him in detail in the suit -- says they were untrue and baseless, and that the class was discussing a topic where "eroticism" was relevant. He also alleges the school violated its own policies throughout the investigation, such as not providing him with the evidence against him so he could properly defend himself.

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