Student Sues University for Alleged Sexual Harassment

A Florida A&M student is suing the Board of Trustees for alleged sexual harassment from an academic adviser.

Trenton Kirksey, 21, who was active in the Student Government Association, filed papers at the Leon County Second Judicial Circuit Court on Aug. 30.

In the five-page lawsuit, Kirksey claims to have been the victim of sexual harassment while assigned to Eugene Matthews,an academic adviser. Kirksey claims “Matthews communicated verbally, through body language, and/or through conduct his interest in pursuing a sexual relationship” with him.

In the complaint, Kirksey claims to have had no interest in pursuing a relationship with Matthews and discouraged it from the start. But he alleged that Matthews continued to pursue the matter. Kirksey claims that Matthews made frequent comments about his attractiveness and commenting that he “smelled delicious,” and that he was “a fine piece of …”.

Kirksey’s lawsuit also claims that Matthews violated his privacy rights by releasing grades and other confidential information to a third party. Matthews is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Kirksey said he tried to tell some of Matthews’ supervisors, Lisa Lang, director of academic advisers, and William Hudson Jr., vice president of student affairs, but received no help. Despite multiple attempts to be reassigned to a different adviser, Kirksey was never reassigned.

“[Kirksey] asked to be moved and was not moved out from under the adviser,” said Marie Mattox, attorney representing Kirksey. “He has suffered harm from the original harassment and from retaliation from the adviser and some supervisors, to whom he made his reports.”

Sharon Sauders, chief communications officer said it is against university policy to comment on open cases.

An example of the retaliation Kirksey faced is listed in the lawsuit. Allegedly, in the fall 2010 semester, “Matthews threw his advisement folder at Plaintiff ” and shouted at Kirksey to leave his office, according to the report.

In response to his reporting to Matthews’ supervisors, the lawsuit alleges that retaliation was taken against Kirksey by Lang, Hudson, and largely from Matthews. In response, the lawsuit names two infractions that are being pursued heavily.

The first count is for gender discrimination and count two is for retaliation. Both violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and of Section 1000.05 in the Florida statutes.

Kirksey is asking for $15,000 in damages and fees.