Two ISU graduate students have accused Iowa State of violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
Sladjana Prisic, graduate student in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, and Laura Dutca, graduate student in chemistry, claim university officials discriminated against them and did not act properly after the officials were made aware of sexual harassment complaints made against former ISU professor Nenad Kostic.
Kositc, Prisic and Dutca were unavailable for comment.
The state of Iowa is also named as a defendant.
Each lawsuit makes separate claims with similar themes — students were harassed by an ISU faculty member.
Both cases, which were filed in Polk County on Aug. 11, claim ISU officials knew about Kostic's inappropriate behavior in 1998, though Kostic is not named as a defendant in either case.
One lawsuit claims Kostic sexually harassed Prisic repeatedly during a two-year period. Kostic also impregnated Prisic and "[engaged] in an unrelenting campaign of harassment, stalking and intimidation, designed to try to force her to get an abortion." The other lawsuit claims Dutca was sexually harassed by Kostic in March 2004.
The students filed a formal complaint with the university April 13, 2004.
Both lawsuits allege Iowa State handled the student's complaints in a way that would not allow them access to information about the progress of the complaints through the university's system.
Paige Fiedler, an attorney with Fiedler, Townsend & Newkirk PLC, is representing both graduate students in the cases. She accuses the university of setting up the complaint in a way that would not afford the students the right to be informed about the ongoing investigation.
According to the lawsuits, ISU officials arranged to have different, formal complaints filed on behalf of Prisic and Dutca by two other professors.
Whoever makes the formal complaint has a right to be informed about the investigation process, Fiedler said.
In June 2004, an ISU Faculty Review Board found Kostic "engaged in serious and repeated misconduct" and recommended that Iowa State proceed with major sanctions against him.
"I think, when you look at the facts in the cases, it's our belief that we responded in a very swift manner and appropriate way. We have certain procedures we have to follow and we did follow those procedures," said John McCarroll, executive director of university relations.
University Counsel Paul Tanaka said minutes from that review board are not available because they are considered personnel records.
"These are allegations," Tanaka said. "Our obligations as attorneys are to try this in court, not in the public, not in the media."
Fiedler said her clients are hoping to bring about institutional changes, which is why they filed suits against the university.