A John Jay College of Criminal Justice grad student says she endured “incessant unwanted sexual advances” from a prominent professor during thesis-writing sessions, according to a lawsuit against the scandal-scarred school.
Judith Sandrine Dikambi claims in court papers that Associate Professor Carlton Jama Adams exposed her to “a barrage of unrelenting and daily xenophobic, sexist and vulgar remarks about her African heritage.”
Adams, 68, is the former chair of the Africana Studies department at John Jay, which is part of the taxpayer-funded City University of New York.
Dikambi, 48, was a John Jay staffer working with international students and also seeking a master’s degree. She asked Adams — described in court papers as a well-known researcher and speaker — for help with her thesis.
During one 2014 thesis-writing session at his home, “Adams subjected Ms. Dikambi to unwanted oral sexual contact,” Dikambi claims in her suit, which was filed in 2019 in Manhattan federal court.
He once asked, “How much will it take for me to sleep with you?” the suit alleges. He also groped her “her breasts and buttocks,” papers say.
“Throughout her professional relationship with Dr. Adams from 2006 through 2014, Ms. Dikambi endured additional incessant unwanted sexual advances by him,” legal papers say.
Dikambi worked in Adams’ department, but was transferred to a different one after she complained of discrimination, according to legal papers which said the move was a demotion.
DiKambi filed the suit after an internal investigation substantiated some of her complaints — including that Adams pulled her hair and said “You are acting like this because you are African.”
But the probe did not substantiate other claims, including the allegation that Adams grabbed her.
Federal Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled last month that Dikambi “plausibly alleged a hostile work environment against CUNY” — allowing the suit to go forward — and dismissed other claims including for discrimination and retaliation.
The suit is the second in recent years charging improper sexual conduct among John Jay profs.
Former students Claudia Cojocaru and Naomi Haber alleged in a 2019 federal suit that the college and four professors created “a cesspool of sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment and illegal drug use.”
Adams was not a plaintiff in that suit, but Haber contended that she went to the professor’s office in 2015 and that he sat next to her and “Placed his hands on her legs and began caressing her upper thighs,” legal papers say.
Adams declined to comment on Haber’s allegations and Dikambi’s suit.
Haber and Cojocaru’s suit was settled earlier this year, with CUNY paying $164,499 to each of them and $281,000 in legal fees.
All claims were dismissed except for those made by anthropology professor Ric Curtis contending Haber and Cojocaru defamed him and their counterclaim of retaliation. Curtis also sued CUNY and others for discrimination.
Curtis and two of the other professors, Anthony Marcus and Barry Spunt, were placed on paid leave in 2018 and John Jay president Karol Mason said in May 2019 that she would begin termination proceedings. The fourth professor, an adjunct, was not rehired.
Curtis, who was paid $141,819 in 2020, is still collecting a paycheck as the disciplinary proceedings against him continue. Marcus, who is still on leave, is set to retire on Dec. 31 and Spunt died in February 2021.
“John Jay is committed to fostering an environment where every member of the John Jay community is able to learn and work free from any type of harassment or discrimination. There is absolutely no place for sexual harassment or misconduct at John Jay,” a spokesman said.
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