Two graduate students who settled with Ohio University in a sexual misconduct and gender discrimination suit said they went months without psychological treatment after Counseling and Psychological Services refused to treat them.

Christine Adams and Susanna Hempstead filed a civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in March 2017 arguing that the university violated their rights to equal access to education by failing to take action on several sexual harassment complaints against former English professor Andrew Escobedo. When Adams sought treatment at CPS for trauma she said she experienced due to sexual harassment by Escobedo, she was turned away.

“I’m a Ph.D. student and I was struggling, and I was told if it ever becomes dire, come to walk-in hours,” Adams said. “I came to walk-in hours and I was told I could not be seen and I was let go without being seen and no one did an evaluation to see if I was suicidal or if I was a danger to the university community.”

In an Oct. 6, 2017, letter that Adams provided The Post, then-CPS Director Fred Weiner told Adams that the university could arrange for her to see a psychologist or counselor off campus at the university’s expense.

“I understand you met with two of our staff to discuss the possibility of (treatment) at CPS and that they indicated that this might not be possible given the legal action that you are pursuing against Ohio University,” Weiner wrote. “The hesitation on our part is based on wanting to make you feel as comfortable and secure about our services given the circumstance that CPS is funded by Ohio University and our providers are University employees.”

But for six months, Adams and Hempstead were unable to find anyone off campus to see them. Weiner never did point to a specific policy against treating students who are engaged in litigation against the university, Hempstead said. They met with Weiner multiple times and called more than 20 local practitioners without success, Adams said. 

“We ... had the incredibly frustrating and degrading experience of calling every person on the list who seemed a good fit given our diagnoses, and person after person refused to see us because of the lawsuit,” Adams said in an email.

Some of the therapists were unwilling to treat Hempstead and Adams because they feared they would be asked to testify, Adams said.

In April, Adams contacted the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance with the hope that the office would intervene to allow them to return to CPS. She provided copies of those emails as documentation.

Adams wrote on April 3, 2018, “I recently have become concerned about unequal access to campus services for Susanna and me. Would you have some time to meet to see if there is any way that you might assist us?”

At about that time, Adams and Hempstead were able to get an appointment with one therapist unaffiliated with the university. OU covered the costs for those sessions until the settlement in November.

“It happened to be the same woman, which made it weird because we were seeing the same psychologist, but it was the only help we could find in a moment that, truthfully, felt crucial for both our mental health,” Hempstead said.

OU Spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood said the university would not comment. The OU website states that CPS may refer out students whose “needs for services go beyond (CPS’s) ability to meet these needs,” but the website does not mention litigation.

@baileygallion

bg272614@ohio.edu

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