Five former students and one current student sued East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania on Friday, alleging that university officials did not prevent a former vice president from making unwanted sexual advances toward male students even after his behavior had been reported repeatedly, according to the Pocono Record, a newspaper in Stroudsburg, and other news reports.
The suit says that university officials covered up complaints about the vice president, Isaac W. Sanders, even though his “inappropriate and unlawful sexual conduct toward plaintiffs and other young African-American ESU students was blatant, open, and notorious,” the Associated Press reported. Mr. Sanders, who is also black, oversaw university advancement at the university beginning in 2000.
The lawsuit says he offered grants and scholarships to win the students’ trust and then made advances that the suit describes in graphic detail, according to the Record, which first reported allegations about Mr. Sanders last summer. He left the university in October, after having been placed on leave for four months and after investigations by both the state’s Human Relations Commission and its higher-education system.
The suit, which was filed in state court and seeks damages of more than $50,000, names as defendants Mr. Sanders; the university; its trustees; its president, Robert J. Dillman, whom the suit describes as a close friend of Mr. Sanders; and two other administrators. The suit charges that the university did not properly investigate allegations against Mr. Sanders, that Mr. Dillman stood in the way of internal investigation, that other administrators attempted to intimidate the plaintiffs, and that the university lost or destroyed records of interviews in the case, according to the Record.
Albert R. Murray Jr., a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the AP: “These were boys who were preyed upon because of the fact they were from single-parent households, they were looking for help, they were looking for mentorship. That’s one of the things that hurts the most.” The plaintiffs are identified in the suit only by initials.
Representatives of the university and the state higher-education system said they could not comment on a pending lawsuit. —Lawrence Biemiller