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A lawsuit against Tamiko Strickman, director of the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX office alleging she showed “deliberate indifference” when serving as Title IX coordinator and director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, may proceed to trial according to a ruling by U.S District Judge John Gerrard on Wednesday.
According to a lawsuit filed in Feb. 2021, Strickman violated the rights of a graduate student who reported sexual misconduct to the OIEC. Strickman allegedly pressured the student to drop her case, ignored the student’s questions regarding the case and made false statements about the case to the student.
The plaintiff, referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, was kissed on the lips by her professor and Ph.D. mentor in the engineering program, referred to as John Roe, in 2014. Roe was over 60 years old, while Doe was 24. In 2016, Roe tried to hug Doe and harassed her with unsolicited texts and emails, reportedly sending her a link to an adult movie. After Roe allegedly demoted Doe to second author on a paper Doe needed for her doctoral requirements, Doe filed a complaint to UNL’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance.
According to Wednesday’s ruling, Strickman responded to the complaint by sending Doe a letter, assuring her that Roe had violated University sexual harassment policies. UNL then ordered no contact between Roe and Doe.
However, the professor’s harassment allegedly continued into the following year and Roe filed another complaint in 2017, resulting in little action from Strickman.
“Strickman responded to this report the same day with a one-line email: ‘Would you like to go over additional safety planning with [a member of the UNL police force]?’” Gerrard’s report states. “Strickman also allegedly told Doe that ‘(she) would talk to Roe.’”
Strickman was originally hired by the University in Dec. 2019 as the Office of Institutional Equity director. When OIE was rebranded to ECRT in July 2021, the University announced Strickman would remain the director.
In an email to the Daily on Thursday, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald wrote President Schlissel’s confidence in Strickman has not changed due to the ruling.
“President Mark Schlissel has complete confidence in Tami Strickman to lead our institution’s response to sexual and gender-based misconduct,” Fitzgerald wrote. “He selected her to lead the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office and his confidence in her ability to lead that team has not wavered.”
Based on the evidence Doe provided, the report said “Strickman violated Doe’s clearly established Fourteenth Amendment rights when, despite her knowledge of Roe’s previous harassment, she was deliberately indifferent to Doe’s … report.”
Doe’s claims of retaliation against the UNL Board of Regents, Title IX retaliation and a due process violation were dismissed by Gerrard.
Strickman is also the subject of an ongoing second lawsuit dated July 2020, which deals with how she allegedly mishandled several student reports of sexual misconduct during her time at UNL. The lawsuit also alleged Strickman was fired from UNL in Dec. 2019, a fact both the University of Michigan and UNL deny.
UNL spokesperson Leslie Reed wrote in an email to The Daily that the court still had not determined if the allegations against Strickman were true and UNL plans to continue to “rigorously defend” the remaining claims in the case.
“This is an early stage ruling, and the University hasn’t had the opportunity to present any evidence to counter the Plaintiff’s claims,” Reed wrote. “The Court simply determined, assuming the allegations were true, if the Plaintiff provided enough information in her complaint to proceed with her claims. The Court did not determine if any of the Plaintiff’s allegations were true… and dismissed several of the plaintiff’s claims.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily in July, University President Mark Schlissel said he was confident Strickman would be cleared of wrongdoing in both lawsuits.
“We looked very carefully at the lawsuits… and we looked at the nature of the suit, and we had our general counsel speak to the general counsel and the communications staff at Nebraska,” Schlissel said. “We spoke to (Strickman) about these cases as well, and we satisfied ourselves that ultimately she’ll be cleared of wrongdoing in these cases.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that U-M Public Affairs did not respond in time for publication. The Michigan Daily missed their response before publication, and the article has been updated with their response. The article has also been updated with a response from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Correction: A previous version of this article suggested the court made a ruling on the veracity of Strickman’s allegations. The article has been updated to make clear the suit has only survived a motion to dismiss.
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