Suit accuses ex-C of C professor of harassment

The College of Charleston is facing a lawsuit that alleges sexual harassment was “severe and pervasive” in its Biology Department in 2013.

A College of Charleston student has filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually harassed by a male associate professor of biology and that the school’s leaders failed to stop him.

In an Oct. 19 lawsuit filed in a Charleston County court, an anonymous plaintiff identified as “Jane Doe” alleged that Associate Professor D. Reid Wiseman harassed her during a biology class field trip to Folly Beach in October 2013.

According to the complaint, Wiseman put his arm around the student’s waist, pinched her buttocks and called her “my Georgia, Athens princess.” While pointing out a plant called clitoria ternatea, Wiseman is accused of making a crude remark to the student.

The lawsuit has not been resolved. Wiseman responded to the complaint in a Nov. 25 court filing. He wrote that he had called the student “my Georgia, Athens princess” and said he had touched her on the back “so as to encourage her to join the rest of the group.” He denied the rest of the claims.

The plaintiff wrote in the lawsuit that leaders at the school “were on notice of prior inappropriate acts” by Wiseman and “failed to do anything to stop the inappropriate conduct.” She added that “the sex-based and other unlawful harassment was severe and pervasive, created by a hostile and abusive environment within the Biology Department.”

Mike Robertson, direction of media relations at the College of Charleston said the school does not comment on personnel issues and confirmed that Wiseman no longer works there.

As reported in the College of Charleston student publication Cistern Yard, 2015 was not the first time the college faced a lawsuit alleging that the Biology Department was an inhospitable environment for women. In June 2011, Assistant Professor Anastasia Zimmerman sued the school and Grice Marine Lab Director Louis Burnett. She accused Burnett of “unfair and bullying treatment of women” and said he had moved her laboratory to “an unsafe storage room.” Zimmerman and Burnett are both currently employed in the Biology Department, according to the school website.

A jury ruled in Zimmerman’s favor and awarded her $10,000 in actual damages and $50,000 in punitive damages from Burnett.

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.