Two female postgraduate students at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry have sued the school and an associate professor there, alleging they were sexually harassed and discriminated against and that the school failed to protect them when they complained.
The two Title IX lawsuits were filed late Tuesday in U.S. District Court against UT Health San Antonio and Dr. Marcel Noujeim, an associate professor at the dental school, by the Dallas-based Gorman Law Firm, which specializes in legal issues related to education. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The plaintiffs, identified in the lawsuit only as “Jane UTHSCSA-As Doe” and “Mary UTHSCSA-Pm Doe,” are each seeking $5 million in damages.
Attorney Terry Gorman said Noujeim engaged in inappropriate behavior that included “continual texting, phone calling, discussions of a sexual nature,” and alleged that the professor retaliated against both women when they refused his advances and filed complaints against him, including mounting smear campaigns against them and denying them educational opportunities.
“The institution has not been served with a lawsuit as it relates to this claim, so we are not able to provide any comment,” a UT Health San Antonio representative said Wednesday afternoon.
The suit against Noujeim and UT Health San Antonio involving plaintiff Jane alleges verbal and sexual harassment and abuse that began in 2016 and has continued, according to the suit. Already a licensed dentist, Jane came to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in oral and maxillofacial radiological studies at UT Health San Antonio.
The lawsuit states that once Jane, who is an Iranian Muslim, rebuffed Noujeim’s sexual advances, which included unwanted kissing and comments about her physical appearance, he engaged in “abusive power plays” and threatened her with academic dismissal or probation. It also alleges that Noujeim, who is a Lebanese Christian, made repeated “negative comments about the plaintiff’s race and national origin.”
The suit alleges that Mary, who is also an Iranian Muslim pursuing a master’s degree in oral and maxillofacial radiological studies at UT Health San Antonio, experienced abuse that began in 2017. The suit alleges that Noujeim blocked her from exiting a closet while verbally abusing her and compared her to “an Iranian woman shown on YouTube shooting people.”
“We have a situation where apparently, at [UT Health San Antonio schools] it is appropriate to allow a professor, to sexually harass and in some cases sexually assault his [female] professional students,” said Gorman. “There is clearly discrimination going on based on gender, based on ethnicity, and based on religion.”
Gorman noted that both women are still enrolled at UT Health San Antonio and Noujeim is still employed at the dental school. “We are asking [in the lawsuits] for his immediate termination and equitable relief,” he said.
Gorman said he has over 2,000 pages of texts, emails, and recorded evidence provided to him by his two clients, in addition to witness testimonies that corroborate the plaintiffs’ complaints.
Noujeim received his dental degree from the Lebanese University School of Dentistry in Beirut and moved to the United States, where he finished a master’s degree in Dental Diagnostic Science from the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry in 2006. He was appointed to serve as director of the oral and maxillofacial radiology graduate program at the dental school in 2008.