Georgetown University and Professor Named in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (The Hoya)
A former Georgetown University student is suing the university, alleging she was retaliated against after she reported that a professor sexually harassed her for two years.
The lawsuit, filed July 31 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by lawyers representing Candace van der Stelt, says that Dr. Peter Turkeltaub, a neuroscientist and a professor for the departments of neurobiology and rehabilitation medicine, sexually harassed Van der Stelt between 2020 and 2022 while she worked in his on-campus lab. The allegations include sexual jokes and innuendo and improper touching, such as long hugs and an attempt to stroke her inner thigh.
The complaint also alleges that Georgetown and its Biomedical Graduate Education (BGE) program — which are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit — permitted other faculty members to retaliate against Van der Stelt because she filed complaints with the university, preventing her from continuing her studies at Georgetown and forcing her to transfer to another program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Georgetown’s spokesperson said the university doesn’t comment on ongoing legal matters. Some of Turkeltaub’s colleagues and students have defended him, saying they believe the allegation against him to be untrue or that instances in the lawsuit are mischaracterized. A lawyer for Turkeltaub, Ann Olivarius, also said the allegations against her client are false.
“We only take cases that we have investigated thoroughly before we agree to take them on,” Olivarius wrote to The Hoya. “In this matter, we were honored to accept the invitation to represent Professor Peter Turkeltaub because of his proven integrity and trustworthy behaviour.”
“Our lawyers do not believe it is possible for Professor Turkeltaub, given how he is wired, how he has lived his feminism, and how he has defined his life, to have sexually harassed a once graduate student in his department,” Olivarius added.
Olivarius, known for representing victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault, has taken on cases against the Catholic Church and Ivy League institutions such as Yale University.