A former Amherst College lecturer claims that her supervisor pressured teaching assistants to sleep with students as a way to bolster enrollment in classes offered by the Spanish department.
The sex-for-Spanish allegation is contained in a lawsuit filed in Hampshire Superior Court against Amherst College and supervisor Victoria Maillo filed by Dimaris Barrios-Beltran, 33, who is suing for wrongful termination, retaliation, employment discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Barrios-Beltran claims that her career at Amherst went sour after she complained to the chair of the Spanish department about the supervisor’s alleged sexual harassment as it related to the TAs. Her supervisor then started giving her a lot of grief, and higher ups allegedly did nothing to address the hostile work environment. Originally hired in April 2012 to start in the following fall, she subsequently learned that the school would not renew her teaching contract, and she is now teaching at nearby Mount Holyoke College.
“In the five-count complaint, Barrios-Beltran, an Amherst resident and native of Puerto Rico, alleges she suffered retaliation and discrimination after raising concerns about sexual harassment experienced by teaching assistants in the college’s Spanish department,” the Daily Hampshire Gazette explained.
The lawsuit seeks lost pay, attorney’s fees, compensation for emotional distress, and consequential damages.
Amherst is a prestigious and expensive liberal arts institution located in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Tuition at Amherst is approximately $50,000 per year.
The Washington Post summarized the “liberal” enrollment effort, which perhaps gives a new meaning to student body.
“The suit describes [Barrios-Beltran] as becoming concerned soon after she was hired in 2012, which is when Barrios-Beltran claims Maillo told her she liked to find ‘pretty faces’ online to hire as teaching assistants in order to attract more students to Spanish classes and spoke disparagingly about some students and Barrios-Beltran’s Puerto Rican accent.”
“Early in 2013, Barrios-Beltran’s teaching assistant called her in tears, according to the lawsuit, saying that Maillo was treating her like a prostitute. The teaching assistant claimed that Maillo was angry that she was dating a student at the University of Massachusetts and told her and other teaching assistants to go to parties with students and sleep with them to encourage them to take Spanish. Barrios-Beltran claims that in frustration, the teaching assistant asked Maillo if she wanted her to sleep with a different guy every night like another teaching assistant was doing, and the teaching assistant told Barrios-Beltran that Maillo responded, ‘that is what I brought you here for.'”
— Karen Kelsky (@ProfessorIsIn) January 4, 2016
In a statement, an Amherst College spokesman indicated he couldn’t comment specifically on an active lawsuit, but added that the lecturer lost her position only because of a lack of sign-ups (which also suggests perhaps that the supervisor’s unorthodox plan — if it existed — to attract students to the Spanish department failed).
“In March 2015, following a careful assessment of enrollments in the Spanish Department, the College decided that it would not renew Ms. Barrios-Beltran’s short-term contract when it expired June 30, 2015. This decision was made with no knowledge of the allegations Ms. Barrios-Beltran now raises, and which she brought forward only after she was told that her short-term contract would not be renewed. The College’s decision was based solely on declining enrollments, and any claims otherwise are not based in fact. The College is confident that the court, upon reviewing the facts of this matter, will reach the same conclusion.”
The supervisor in question reportedly no longer works at Amherst either.
Barrios-Beltran kept a private workplace diary of what was going on in the Spanish department at Amherst and submitted that compilation to the school’s Title IX coordinator before she was let go.
Separately, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation just granted Amherst College $1.5 million to support campus-wide diversity and inclusion.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally at the college on January 2.
“[L]ast year Amherst was one of the 55 colleges named in a federal investigation over the handling of sexual abuse complaints,” NBC News reported.
— Daily Collegian (@MDCollegian) December 30, 2015
[Photo courtesy of David Emmerman via Wikimedia Commons |cropped and resized|(CC BY 3.0)]