Graduate Sues UOP Alleging Sexual Harassment

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STOCKTON -- A former University of the Pacific student is suing the university, alleging that she was sexually assaulted by a debate coach when she was a minor, and that leadership within the university tried to cover it up.

In a 21-page document filed in federal court Monday morning, lawyers for UOP graduate Katherine Earley claim she and one of her debate coaches had several sexual encounters while Earley was still a minor.

According to the lawsuit, Earley "who was sixteen years old during the 2013-2014 academic year, was repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted by Josh Ramsey, a graduate student and forensics coach at, and employee of, the University of the Pacific."

Ramsey was 25 at the time, the documents allege, and "used his position of authority to win the confidence of Plaintiff and initiate an improper personal relationship with minor Plaintiff, which culminated in the sexual harassment and sexual assaults on Plaintiff..."

The lawsuit accuses the university of "deliberate indifference to the acts of sexual abuse," claiming persons in positions of leadership at the university, including faculty members, were aware of what was going on.

Earley "claims that after she reported the misconduct, the university failed to complete a prompt investigation, to discipline those involved, or to take other appropriate steps," according to a press release from her attorneys announcing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges University of the Pacific failed to fulfill its obligations under Title IX, the Federal law prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination at universities.

“Universities have a legal duty to provide an educational environment that's free from discrimination," said Earley's attorney, Adam Gutride, in a Monday afternoon phone conversation with FOX40. "That means that they can't look the other way when they know about sexual assault or sexual misconduct; especially if they know about it by coaches against students."

The university released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"University of the Pacific takes allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously. All allegations are thoroughly investigated in accordance with university policy as well as state and federal law. Pacific does not comment on ongoing investigations out of respect for the privacy and due process rights of the parties involved, and to protect the integrity of the investigation.”

The university also confirmed for FOX40 that Ramsey was a graduate student, who worked part-time as a debate coach, and graduated from Pacific in 2014. And the accuser, Ms. Earley, graduated in 2015.

Earley released this statement:

“I hope that this lawsuit brings about changes not only at UOP, but in the debate community and college culture at large.”

The suit, demanding a jury trial, seeks unspecified monetary damages for the plaintiff and injunctive relief (court-ordered changes in university sexual harassment policies and practices).

FOX40 attempted to reach Ramsey for reaction to the lawsuit Monday.