Education

Duke: Professor accused of sexual harassment no longer teaching at university

Posted April 17, 2019 10:53 a.m. EDT

— A Duke University official said a professor accused of sexually harassing students is not currently teaching and there are no plans for him to teach at the school again.

It’s not clear if the move is related to the allegations that surfaced earlier this month.

Duke alumna Jill Hicks-Keeton said that in 2008, religious studies professor Mel Peters humiliated and harassed her in a doctoral class.

She said Peters made comments about her appearance and asked her about her undergarments.

In an open letter to Duke President Vincent Prince that she posted on social media, Hicks-Keeton said that Peters suggested she would get a job in academia because of her looks.

Two other students in the class told her Peters also made them uncomfortable.

She was part of a meeting with the Office of Institutional Equity but was afraid of retaliation, so she didn’t file a formal complaint, she said.

“I worried I would be too much trouble for the department in which I desperately wanted to succeed,” Hicks-Keeton wrote in the letter. “Furthermore, I never wanted to see Mel Peters again.”

She complained to university officials in September 2018 after reading about another instance of sexual harassment at the school, but nothing was done, she said.

When she learned Peters received a mentoring award several weeks ago, she decided to go public with the allegations.

“I would like a response,” Hicks-Keeton wrote in the letter. “And if Peters has indeed been sanctioned by the Duke administration for sexual harassment, say it out loud.”

Duke said in a statement that it cannot comment on specific cases but is committed to addressing sexual harassment.

“The painful experiences of students and faculty who have reported sexual harassment must be acknowledged and validated,” Michael Schoenfeld, the university’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in the statement.

Schoenfeld said Peters is no longer teaching at the university.

When WRAL News asked Peters for a comment about the allegations, he said he had “no idea” what we were talking about.