Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Seven women filed a lawsuit against Dartmouth University accusing the New Hampshire Ivy League school of failing to act against three professors accused of sexual harassment and assault.
The women, all of whom studied in the school's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said they were "treated as sex objects" by tenured professors Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen.
"These professors leered at, groped, sexted, intoxicated, and even raped female students," the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in a federal court in New Hampshire, said.
The lawsuit, which seeks $70 million in damages, said the Ivy League school failed to act when the women lodged complaints for more than 16 years. The women allege the misconduct began in 2002 and went on until the spring, when one of the professors retired and two others resigned.
A statement from Dartmouth says school officials "respectfully but strongly disagree with the characterizations of Dartmouth's actions in the complaint and will respond through our own court filings."
School officials said they took steps toward terminating the professors after learning of the complaints.
"They are no longer at Dartmouth and remain banned from our campus and from attending all Dartmouth-sponsored events, no matter where the events are held," the statement says.
But the lawsuit says the men were rewarded at the university even after complaints were lodged against them. Heatherton, for instance, had two sexual harassment complaints against him within a 12-month span in 2002, but after was named champion international professor and then chair of the department.
One of the women, Kristina Rapuano, said Whalen sexually assaulted her in 2014 when she was a graduate student. He allegedly closed the door of his office, turned off the light, pinned her to a wall and forcibly touched her even though she told him to stop.
Rapuano also said Kelley raped her while she was drunk at a neuroscience conference in San Francisco "when he knew she was too incapacitated to consent," the suit says. She said she wondered whether Kelley had drugged her.
"After sexually assaulting Ms. Rapuano in March 2015, Kelley began to pursue an inappropriate sexual relationship with her, using his position of power to exert control over her personal and professional life and threatening retribution when she rejected or did not sufficiently respond to his advances," the lawsuit says.
The women said the three professors frequently bragged about who had the most attractive female students in their labs.