Advertisement

Columbia professor accused of sexual harassment takes stand in $30M civil case

Columbia professor accused of sexual harassment takes stand in $30M civil case
Columbia professor Geert Bekaert speaks at a lecture Dec 8, 2011. (Columbia Business School via YouTube)

He lives up to his nickname.

The Columbia University professor accused of sexual harassment— known as the “blunt Belgian” among colleagues— told his accuser that he would “bring a whip” to a meeting on improving communication, according to emails revealed in court.

Advertisement

Columbia professor Geert Bekaert stands accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward Enrichetta Ravina while she conducted financial research at the Ivy League university.

Ravina, 42, has alleged that Bekaert derailed their research after she resisted his raunchy overtures — which, she contends, undermined her attempt at tenure. Ravina was denied tenure in spring 2016 and now works at Northwestern University.

Advertisement

Ravina’s lawyers called Bekaert to the witness stand Thursday to testify in her $30 million Manhattan Federal Court case against him and the university.

Enrichetta Ravina is pictured outside the Marshall Courthouse on April 11th, 2016 in New York.
Enrichetta Ravina is pictured outside the Marshall Courthouse on April 11th, 2016 in New York. (Alec Tabak for New York Daily News)

During Bekaert’s testimony, Ravina’s lawyers presented emails that they claim show some of his allegedly inappropriate behavior toward her.

“It seems you have a masochistic desire to not be productive,” he allegedly wrote in one April 2014 email presented to the jury.

In the same email chain, Ravina asked that they meet to figure out how to communicate “professionally, respectfully and correctly.”

Advertisement

Bekaert replied, “I will bring a whip” to the meeting, according to an email presented in court.

One of Ravina’s lawyers, David Sanford, said in his opening statement earlier this week Bekaert had also referred to her as an “evil b---h, a f---ing b---h, an unbelievable b---h, a damn evil b---h, an evil b---h in action, an incredible mean b---h, crazy, insane, mentally unstable, sick, paranoid, schizophrenic, berserk and incredibly evil,” in emails to other researchers.

While Bekaert’s lawyer conceded his manner of speech could be “pretty pungent,” he has denied Ravina’s sexual harassment allegations.

“He was known by many at Columbia as the ‘blunt Belgian,’ and this is for a reason, because sometimes he’s brusque, he could sometimes be rude,” Edward Hernstadt said in his opening statement. “But you will see evidence, emails that will be shown to you of years of interacting between Prof. Bekaert and Prof. Ravina where the content and the tone is perfectly cordial.”

Advertisement
Advertisement