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Student Says Prof Pawed Her for an Hour

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (CN) - A student at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa says she was sexually harassed in and out of class by her French teacher, who touched and kissed her in his office for 90 minutes while telling her he was "just trying to help her."

French professor Rafael Chiche told his class he had had to leave France due to an affair with a student, according to the federal complaint.

The Alabama student claims Chiche made "sexually inappropriate and suggestive comments" to her and other students, at least one of whom withdrew from class because of Chiche's behavior.

The student says she stopped going to class due to the "intimidating and hostile learning environment." She says she felt "fear and humiliation" - especially when Chiche began showing up at her job.

The student claims that when Chiche asked about her excessive absenteeism, he threatened her with expulsion from school for the "forged" medical excuses she provided. Then, she says, Chiche told her that if she submitted to his sexual advances, he would not turn in the excuses the University.

She claims Chiche touched and kissed her in his office while telling her he was "just trying to help her."

The complaint continues: "Chiche started rubbing her legs and began touching her inappropriately. [The plaintiff] asked Chiche, 'if I don't do anything with you right now I will be kicked out of school?' Chiche responded, while rubbing her face, that he was trying to help her and that he could overlook the excuses. This continued for an hour and a half.

"Chiche suggested to [her] that if she would acquiesce to his sexual advances he would not turn the excuses over to the dean of her college: that although he had turned them in he could still assure her that he could prevent her from receiving consequences."

The student says that after she filed a complaint against Chiche, the university told her she could not register for the following semester because she was being given an academic misconduct report for the false medical excuses. She says she was never informed of the outcome of the formal complaint she filed against Chiche.

Also named as defendants are Robert F. Olin, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, three other professors, and the Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama.

The plaintiff is represented by Brett M. Bloomston of Birmingham.


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