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Dartmouth students shocked, angered over abuse allegations in lawsuit

The campus at Darmouth College in Hanover, N.H.
The campus at Darmouth College in Hanover, N.H.(Charles Krupa/Associated Press/File 2018)

HANOVER, N.H. — Students at Dartmouth College reacted with shock and anger Thursday at allegations made in a federal class-action lawsuit that three neuroscience professors abused women and the institution failed to protect students.

“I don’t think that anybody in a position of authority should be using their power to demand sexual favors, or any sort of favors,” said Ashwini Narayanan, 18.

The allegations — made by seven current and former students — say that the three professors in Dartmouth College’s psychology and brain sciences department groped and sexually assaulted female students, according to the suit.

The professors — Todd Heatherton, Paul Whalen, and Bill Kelley — left the school earlier this year. Heatherton retired, and Whalen and Kelley resigned, the Globe previously reported.

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Attorneys for the seven current and former students filed the class-action case in federal court in New Hampshire are seeking $70 million in damages.

News of the suit roiled the campus Thursday, including students like Alessandra Salinas, 19, who said she was stunned to learn about the allegations against the former professors from news reports that morning.

“I was happy to learn that the professors are no longer on campus,” Salinas said.

Salinas supports the group that filed the suit, and said she believes publicity about it will help others who have faced abuse on campus.

“It makes way for other students who might have experienced anything similar [to] feel like they can say something,” Salinas said.

Joslyn Garavaglia, 18, said she also supported those who spoke out against sexual abuse.

“I’m really against victim blaming. . . . I really hope they feel they have a good place to share their story,” she said.

Victoria Quint, 18, was impressed with the students who came forward to say they experienced sexual abuse from faculty members.

If “something like that happened to me, I hope people [would] support me in taking action,” Quint said.

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The lawsuit against Dartmouth comes as the national #MeToo movement continues to push for accountability from men facing allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.

“In light of a lot of events going on around the country, I guess I’m not surprised,” said Jack Mathis, 19.

Dartmouth senior Annie Ke, 21, also linked the lawsuit to #MeToo and said her first thought when she learned about it was: “This finally reached this campus,” she said.

“Power corrupts people, and I’m not surprised that power within institutions of higher education could do the same thing,” Ke said.

While students who spoke to the Globe said they supported those who filed the lawsuit, some also credited Dartmouth officials for working to create a safer campus.

Connor Hutto, 18, said he believed the school was working to protect students from sexual assault, including support programs for students who experience abuse.

“They’ve been trying their best,” he said.

Philip J. Hanlon, the college’s president, addressed the campus community in a statement about the lawsuit Thursday, and said Dartmouth offers a range of support services for those who have made reports of sexual assault and misconduct.

Links to those services are posted to Dartmouth’s sexual respect website at dartgo.org/sexualrespect, he said.

Samantha Fried, 18, said that she believes the school will ensure no student will face abuse from a faculty member in the future.

“Hopefully, things will be improved because of this,” Fried said.

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John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.