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19 more women accuse Northwestern professor of sexual harassment, bullying

The mother of a player on the Northwestern University women’s basketball team who died in 2017 has sued a sorority claiming hazing by its members led to her daughter’s suicide. | Sun-Times file photo

Nineteen additional women have accused Northwestern Professor Alec Klein of sexual harassment and bullying under his leadership of the school’s acclaimed investigative journalism program, bringing the number of women alleging misconduct up to 29.

In a Thursday letter to Medill School of Journalism Dean Bradley Hamm, the complaints described anonymously by NU students, alumni and staff echo those leveled in the initial “Medill #MeToo” letter, to which 10 women signed their names Feb. 7.

Alec Klein | Northwestern University faculty photo
Alec Klein | Northwestern University faculty photo
Northwestern University

The women say Klein made unwanted advances, abused them verbally and touched them inappropriately, giving neck massages and requesting hugs in exchange for letting them leave work early.

Klein has taken a leave of absence and categorically denies the claims.

“Several of these women have chosen to participate in Northwestern’s ongoing investigation of Alec Klein. But others are too afraid to speak out further,” Thursday’s letter states.

A university spokesman said their investigation was ongoing but declined further comment.

View this document on ScribdKlein’s attorney Andrew Miltenberg released a statement slamming the latest round of accusations. Miltenberg called the nationwide #MeToo movement of sexual harassment victims speaking out “undoubtedly important,” but he said it has become “judge, jury and executioner” for Klein.

“Shame on these individuals for publicly trying to destroy Prof. Klein’s life and that of his family, and denying him the due process that is a fundamental principle of this country,” Miltenberg said. “Through innuendo, implication, conflated half-truths and even some outright lies, a group of individuals at Northwestern University continue their wholesale butchery of the life of Prof. Alec Klein.”

The new letter includes one woman’s 2015 diary account of an interaction with the professor.

“At one point, I told Klein I wanted to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. ‘So what are you going to do about that THAT?’ he said, motioning to my face. When I asked what he meant, he said: ‘Don’t you need to be physically attractive to be on TV?’…That conversation crushed me.”

Another woman said Klein gave unwanted neck and shoulder massages.

“While I worked, he would pace and wax poetic about his sex life, and complain about his wife in ways that made me feel like crying. He would tell me very personal things about her. I remember feeling this terrible empathy, like I couldn’t believe another woman out there was being treated this way, and wondering if she had anyone to tell.”

Miltenberg ripped the accusers.

“These individuals continue to publicize outrageous and slanderous statements knowing that Professor Klein has — and will — maintain his silence so as to respect the Northwestern University investigative process. Clearly, these individuals are intent on destroying Prof. Klein publicly, so that regardless of his innocence, he is ruined,” Miltenberg said.

View this document on ScribdKlein has said no other complaints have been leveled against him over three decades of reporting and teaching. He was cleared by university investigators of a previous complaint deemed “unsubstantiated,” university officials have said.

Several Northwestern faculty members released a letter supporting the women and a university investigation, without mentioning Klein by name.