CONCORD — Retired New Hampshire Superior Court judge Robert Morrill is mediating a settlement between Dartmouth College and nine women suing the Ivy League school for sexual harassment and misconduct at the hands of three former psychology professors.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, lawyers for both sides met three times last week with Morrill and have asked a judge to extend a stay on all deadlines associated with the case from July 31 to Aug. 5.
“The parties wish to continue focusing on the negotiations, and do not wish to divert their attention to the litigation filings that will be due imminently if the stay is lifted,” reads the request, submitted by lawyers for both sides. Chief District Court Judge Landya B. McCafferty approved the request on Monday.
In November, seven women filed a $70 million complaint in federal court against the college citing a “21st century Animal House” culture of drinking, rape and sexual harassment that took place for years at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
The suit names professors Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen and alleges the plaintiffs were subjected to groping, sexting, alcohol-fueled hot tub parties and even rape. All three professors have since left Dartmouth.
Two more women joined the lawsuit in May. Three are suing under pseudonyms, which the college initially challenged.
Since the lawsuit has been filed, Dartmouth College has instituted a new sexual misconduct policy covering faculty, staff and students. If mediation proves fruitless, a two-week trial is scheduled for mid-March 2021.
Dartmouth has responded in court filings by stating that while there was an “unacceptable environment involving excess alcohol consumption, an inappropriate level of fraternization, and inappropriate personal comments and contact” between the three professors and several students, it has yet to see evidence supporting the more serious assault allegations.