Not Guilty

By Norman Boucher / May / June 1998
December 28th, 2007
On March 31, a federal jury in Providence ruled unanimously that Brown was innocent of negligent supervision and of creating a hostile educational environment that allowed a visiting professor of chemistry to assault and sexually harass a student during a December 1992 study session. Marketa Wills '95 had filed a ten-count complaint against the professor, Kayode Adesogan, and against Brown in U.S. District Court in December 1995, claiming that the University should have known of Adesogan's propensity for such behavior and should have done more to protect her from him. Three other lawsuits against Brown and Adesogan, filed by Emily Borod '95, Stacey Gray '94, and Julie Stunkel '96, remain unresolved. Opening arguments on Borod's complaint were heard on April 28.

Adesogan, who claimed in 1992 that he had "inadvertently" brushed Wills' breast, arrived at Brown in 1991 through a faculty exchange program with the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. Praised for his work by both students and faculty, he was offered a position as visiting professor for the 1992-93 academic year, but after Wills's complaint, he was placed on probation and informed that a second incident would result in immediate dismissal. Adesogan was dismissed on March 15, 1994, after Julie Stunkel '94 filed a sexual assault complaint against him. He is believed to have returned to Nigeria, beyond the reach of U.S. courts.

In her federal complaint, Wills based her allegation that Brown knew Adesogan was acting inappropriately on an incident two months earlier. In October 1992, Laura Schleussner '93 had reported inappropriate behavior by one of her teachers to Senior Lecturer in Theater, Speech, and Dance Barbara Tannenbaum, who was then the University's sexual harassment hearing officer. Schleussner also asked Senior Lecturer in Chemistry Edelgard Morse that someone talk to Adesogan about his having touched her inappropriately. Although Schleussner opted not to file a formal complaint, she said in a deposition for the Wills case that she had given Tannenbaum a written account of the incident. Tannenbaum testified during the trial that she had not received any written account and that she could not remember the student identifying Adesogan to her by name.

Response to the Adesogan affair has fallen along predictable lines: University officials - and now a jury in federal court - have asserted from the start that complaints were handled in a firm and timely manner and in full compliance with Brown's manual on preventing sexual harassment. The Brown Daily Herald, meanwhile, has consistently criticized the administration for mishandling the case by not firing Adesogan earlier. The controversy has partly been responsible for the University's streamlining how it handles sexual harassment grievances and for making sure that any victim of harassment clearly understands the options for filing a compliant.

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May / June 1998