Canisius college is being accused of sweeping an incident involving sexual harassment from a professor under the rug.
A new federal lawsuit is challenging Canisius College in Buffalo, NY over the actions of their former Ambassador for Conservation. Michel Noonan was accused of sexual harassment by various female students and removed from his position in 2019. Now the former students are accusing the college of displaying indifference to their allegations and aiding Noonan in quietly moving on to avoid scandal.
Complaints involving Noonan were recorded between 2014 and 2019. During this period, the lawsuit alleges that he selected mostly female students to travel to various countries with him as research assistants. On these school trips, he sought to inappropriately touch students’ bodies by strapping video recording equipment to the young ladies’ underwear, insisted on giving them enemas and suppositories himself (when stomach issues arose), and constantly initiated inappropriate conversations about their bodies and/or personal lives. Five recent graduates are involved in the lawsuit and their lawyer said that all of her clients wished to become environmental scientists but their aspirations have been barred by their fears of entering graduate programs after Canisius College didn’t provide them with a safe learning environment.
Canisius College denies any harm. They released a statement which points out how the university works to maintain a safe and secure campus and that the allegations against Noonan have never been taken to court, nor did the school ignore the women’s complaints. It is further detailed that the women’s claims were quickly responded to with a serious investigation which resulted in the removal of the offending staff member. The university also expressed that the administration had been unaware that the students involved were still experiencing issues until notice of the lawsuit was received.
The 5 young women involved are all currently receiving therapy treatments and concerns have been expressed over Noonan’s ability to so easily move on with his life. While Canisius College removed him, it was done quietly and he lists himself as retired from the school. Whether this was out of respect for the student’s privacy, or the fact that due process was never truly sought in a legally binding court of law regarding the incidents, is unclear. What is known is that Michale Noonan was accused of sexual harassment but never charged or convicted of such crimes and so the women involved now believe they need to take action in order to prevent him from potentially harming others.
Whether Noonan harmed these students has yet to be proven and so this case will offer some clarity to the situation. The lawsuit against Canisius College is likely to bring up many questions, like why the women waited so long to take legal action, and whether their accounts are wholly truthful, but it has been reported that Noonan now volunteers at a high school and so concerns about him working with young student have sparked a renewed sense of urgency to fully investigate this conflict.
It is unknown what form of damages the plaintiffs are seeking. For now, the suit will be tried and Canisius College must defend its reputation. If the school is found to have covered up a sexual harassment scandal it would damage its standing, but due process will determine that in time.