U of Alaska Anchorage Sued Over Harassment Case

May 20, 2019

Twenty Jane Doe plaintiffs -- 15 of whom have yet to come forward and be identified -- are suing the University of Alaska at Anchorage in federal court for allegedly allowing the now-retired archaeologist David Yesner to harass or retaliate or discriminate against them. Yesner and the University of Alaska system are named as co-defendants.

Last month, Anchorage denied emeritus status to Yesner and banned him from campus over recently surfaced complaints spanning his career. A university investigation found nine women’s complaints credible. Yesner is alleged to have stared at women’s bodies, taken photos of women during field research and cropped the pictures to show only their body parts, kept pornography on his work computer, and even masturbated in his office.

The lawsuit says that women reported Yesner's conduct on multiple occasions, including in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2017, but that various other faculty members and even university investigators mishandled their complaints. Yesner continued to excel in his career while the women’s careers suffered as a result of their complaints, according to the suit. A woman who is not currently a plaintiff in the lawsuit alleged that Yesner assaulted her in a public shower during a field project, according to KTVA.

Yesner, who is at the center of a related controversy within the Society for American Archaeology, has not commented publicly on the allegations against him. The university said in a statement to KTVA that its own investigation demonstrated that Yesner “engaged in reprehensible behavior” and that Anchorage has taken “available steps to address that conduct and offered to do what it can to make things right for affected individuals. We remain willing to do so. We will not have specific comments on pending litigation.”

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