Former University of Wisconsin professor condemned for “toxic” sexual harassment

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2018 | Employment Law

According to University of Wisconsin students and staff, a professor engaged in years of sexual harassment that included unwanted touching, staring and suggestive comments. Professor Harvey Jacobs was the epicenter of “toxic” behavior within the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, according to a university investigation.

A recent Wisconsin State Journal article notes that university investigators determined that Jacobs, who retired in May, left behind a “legacy of sexism” in a department that allowed a “boys will be boys mentality.”

The State Journal says five allegations against Jacobs were substantiated in the university report and that nearly the entire Planning and Landscape Architecture department was distressed by his behavior, not just the women who made the accusations.

Jacobs denied all five allegations: sexual harassment, hostile and intimidating behavior, violating letters of expectations for his behavior, disrespecting personal boundaries and engaging in conduct that affected his professional performance.

The department chair and the director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies both agreed that Jacobs’ behavior contributed to staff turnover and staff avoidance of meetings in which Jacobs was expected to participate.

Some faculty encouraged students to stay away from Jacobs and others said they feared retaliation if they spoke up. Female students developed an informal dress code for Jacobs’ classes, a faculty member told an investigator: “no makeup; baggy clothing; and keep someone with you.”

Staff members have stories about the veteran professor that go back years, including an incident in 2006 in which Jacobs allegedly groped a staffer’s breast.

Jacobs, who joined the school in Madison in 1984, told the investigator that because he’s the oldest member of the department, he’s an “easy target” for unfounded allegations. He also blamed anti-Semitism and envy.

It goes without saying that no one should be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. An experienced, skilled employment law attorney can help you make it stop and hold perpetrators financially accountable for damages.


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