Former professor files federal Civil Rights complaint against college

William Gordon

A former associate professor of physics filed a federal Civil Rights complaint against Lafayette College claiming the college discriminated against him in connection with its investigation of sexual harassment complaints filed by two students.

Physics professor Andrew Kortyna, who spent nearly two years unsuccessfully disputing sexual harassment complaints, was terminated from the college’s employment last March. He filed the 14-count complaint Aug. 14, alleging, among other things, that the college discriminated him on the basis of his gender, according to court records.

The lawsuit further claims college administrators subjected Kortyna to “unlawful retaliation,” after he filed several grievances against his accusers. The court papers claim there was no sexual harassment and he was discriminated against for exhibiting “characteristics that deviate from the male gender norm,” such as, the complaint alleges, crying front of students.

Kortyna and was tenured and taught at the college for 14 years before leaving Mar. 31.

In 2013, Kortyna was accused of sexual harassment by two students. The Lafayette previously reported last May that President Alison Byerly said those cases were brought to hearings.

The Civil Rights complaint, filed in U.S. district court, alleges that the stress of the hearings caused Kortyna to have a mental breakdown. The court papers further allege that the college discriminated against Kortyna because of his disabilities, “…resulting in his termination.”

According to court documents, a college committee issued findings on the charges brought by both students. Although the findings were not made public, the committee allegedly recommended either suspension or job termination.

Byerly terminated his employment, a move upheld by the Lafayette College Board of Trustees, the complaint alleges, which seeks to get Kortyna his job back, plus back pay, bonuses and punitive and compensatory damages.

The college’s attorneys did not comment on the Kortyna suit, a response typical in pending litigation. In a written court response to the complaint, however, college’s lawyers noted that the current complaint is “strikingly similar” to an earlier Kortnya lawsuit that was dismissed by a federal judge last year.

The complaint alleges the college did not follow the Lafayette College’s Faculty Handbook outlined procedures when conducting the hearings, a claim disputed by President Alison Byerly.

“These processes were carried out in accordance with Faculty Handbook policy, as part of procedures that are designed to ensure fairness to all parties,” Byerly wrote in an email.

Kortyna also filed a job action against the college with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as The Lafayette previously reported in May. The status of those complaints is currently unknown to The Lafayette.

Kortyna also filed a lawsuit against the college in April 2014. According to court records, Kortyna claimed that since he was having nervous breakdowns and depressed due to the harassment hearings, and could not represent himself.

He requested to have a lawyer represent him at the hearings, according to court documents, but his request was denied by the college. Lafayette College’s policies do not allow outside legal representation during disciplinary hearings. Because his request was denied, he filed suit against the college, according to court records.

The former physics professor at the college also filed suit against former Provost Wendy Hill, as well, for intentional emotional distress.

U.S. District Court Justice Lawrence Stengel dismissed the suit against the college in Sept. 2014 and Kortyna withdrew his legal action against Hill.