UMN to pay student $75,000 as part of sexual harassment settlement

A 2018 investigation found a University of Minnesota professor committed acts of sexual harassment against a graduate student.

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs as seen on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Nur B. Adam

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs as seen on Thursday, Sept. 19.

The University of Minnesota will pay a former graduate student $75,000 for damages and attorney fees as part of a settlement agreement after the student was sexually harassed by a professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

As part of the settlement, the student will be able to complete her degree tuition-free. The settlement also requires the Humphrey School to provide students and faculty with harassment and bystander training to recognize and report sexual harassment and grooming. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) announced the settlement Friday and will monitor the University for four years to ensure compliance, according to an MDHR press release.

“Schools should be places where students go to learn more about the world and what kind of person they’re going to be,” said MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero in a statement released Friday. “They cannot be places where professors sexually harass students.”

While the report does not name the professor, the student worked under former human rights professor James Ron as a research assistant as reported by the Star Tribune.

Ron held significant influence over her grades, employment and future career goals, according to the MDHR statement. 

Ron made inappropriate comments toward the student about his sexual relations after his divorce, asked her to move into his home as a renter and said he wanted to be her boyfriend once she graduated. The student missed classes and declined going to New York to present her capstone project out of fear that Ron would show up.

The student has not returned to classes since 2018.

Ron was initially suspended from teaching, and the University paid him nearly $200,000 after he resigned from the Humphrey School in July 2020. 

“What should have been a safe and sacred relationship between a professor and a student instead became an unsafe and abusive space,” Lucero said in the statement. “Sexual harassment must stop. Students deserve better.”