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06/26/91

CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558

Sexual harassment charges filed against Med School professor

STANFORD -- Stanford University President Donald Kennedy on Wednesday, June 26, brought sexual harassment and professional misconduct charges against a professor of medicine.

Dr. Mark G. Perlroth, 53, a cardiologist on the faculty at Stanford Medical School, said in response that "I dispute these charges and plan to contest them vigorously" and "I am confident that in due course I shall be completely vindicated."

Two women students brought separate formal complaints against Perlroth in December and February. An ad hoc committee appointed by Medical School Dean David Korn investigated and forwarded its findings to the president's office in late April.

"In accordance with our faculty discipline policy, I attempted to resolve the matter with Dr. Perlroth before taking this step," Kennedy said. "He did not accept the sanctions I proposed, and I have therefore forwarded a formal statement of the charges to Dr. Perlroth and to the Advisory Board."

The university's Statement on Faculty Discipline requires the president, when bringing charges to the university's Advisory Board - a standing committee of seven full professors elected by the faculty - to propose a maximum sanction. Kennedy proposed a maximum of one year's suspension without pay, followed by a period of probation.

The charges against Perlroth are:

  • During the just-completed school year, the charges allege, Perlroth refused to consider a student for a teaching assistant position "because of his personal attraction to the student and his wish to have a romantic or sexual relationship with her.... Although immediately on learning of Dr. Perlroth's wish for a personal relationship, the student informed him that she did not want any such relationship with him, Dr. Perlroth continued to pursue her through repeated telephone, written and personal contact."
  • During a spring 1990 meeting with another student in his office about an exam grade, Perlroth allegedly "channeled the conversation into inappropriately personal subjects, asking her a series of increasingly intimate questions, including questions with sexual overtones."

Current university policy on sexual harassment, adopted in 1981, states that such harassment "may be described generally as repeated and unwanted sexual behavior, such as ... verbal comments or suggestions, which adversely affect the working or learning environment." It does not require, and the charges do not allege, physical contact or offer of favors in return for sexual interaction.

The case will be the first to go to a hearing before the Advisory Board since current disciplinary procedures were adopted in 1972. No date has been set for that hearing, which may be open or closed at the faculty member's option.

In a written statement, Perlroth said he was "deeply distressed" that Stanford had made public its charges before completion of the disciplinary procedures. He said that "no prior case of sexual harassment in the Ombudsperson's memory has ever been made public," and that he had been told that the possible sanctions resulting from a hearing could "dramatically increase" over those offered if he agreed to a settlement.

"I ask fair minded observers to reach their own conclusions as to whether these harsh sanctions and their unprecedented and lacerating publicity, imposed before any adjudication of the charges, which affects both family and the accused, represent the prudent administration of justice, or whether they are a media response to the recent embarrassing revelations of serious misconduct at Stanford," Perlroth said.

Kennedy declined to comment on Perlroth's statement.

Charges of sexism by Stanford Medical School faculty gained widespread attention in early June when Dr. Frances Conley made public her resignation. Conley, one of the nation's first female neurosurgeons, cited sexist attitudes and behavior as a main reason for her resignation.

Perlroth has been affiliated with the Stanford Medical School as a resident, instructor and professor since 1965. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1960, he served at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the Harvard School of Public Health and a branch of the National Cancer Institute.

-ts-

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