Sexual abuse survivors call for investigation into Columbia University’s handling of convicted OBGYN

Over 100 former patients of a former Columbia University gynecologist, who is currently serving time in prison for sex abuse crimes, are urging state officials to investigate the involvement of the prestigious university in the case.

According to a letter sent on Monday and obtained exclusively by USA TODAY, 116 former patients of Robert Hadden are calling on New York attorney general Letitia James to launch an inquiry into what they perceive as an “institutional failure” by Columbia University to report and thoroughly investigate allegations of Hadden’s misconduct that date back decades.

The letter was sent shortly after faculty, students, and staff at Columbia approved a proposal to hire an external law firm to conduct an investigation into the university’s response to Hadden’s actions.

According to the letter, “While Hadden finally is being held accountable for his crimes, Columbia continues to shirk its own responsibility.” Evelyn Yang, a victim advocate and the wife of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, is among the signatories of the letter. Yang has been vocal about the abuse she experienced as a patient of Hadden’s in 2012.

The victims are urging Attorney General James to investigate Columbia’s alleged “intimidation and retaliatory tactics” against them, as well as the university’s communications with local law enforcement regarding the Hadden case. Notably, Hadden also treated patients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Earlier this year, Hadden was convicted by a Manhattan jury of sex trafficking after prosecutors claimed that he had molested dozens of patients between 1993 and 2012. He was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Robert Hadden:Gynecologist convicted of sexually abusing dozens of patients faces 20 years in prison

This letter represents the latest development in a case that has cast a shadow over the esteemed Ivy League university and has drawn comparisons to the scandal involving former U.S. Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar at Michigan State University. The controversy at Columbia has recently garnered increased scrutiny, including from state lawmakers, following a damning report by ProPublica that revealed new details about the case. Additionally, the deadline for filing civil claims against Hadden and the university is approaching.

Last month, hundreds of former patients filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the abuse they endured from Hadden and Columbia. This surge in litigation comes as a result of the Adult Survivors Act, a new state law that temporarily extended the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse claims. The law was enacted, in large part, due to the advocacy efforts of Hadden’s survivors, including some who signed the letter.

Faculty, students vote to hire law firm to investigate failings

According to the letter, Columbia has not launched an internal investigation into how the abuse was allowed to persist. However, the university’s governing body recently passed a resolution, with a unanimous vote of 64-0, to hire an external law firm to conduct an independent review of the Hadden case. The law firm is expected to submit a comprehensive report to the board of trustees, although specific details regarding the timeline and firm have not been disclosed.

During the meeting, Susan Witte, a professor of social work at Columbia, emphasized that the resolution signifies a demand for more than just apologies and promises. Witte stated, “We demand that the University hold to account those in positions of authority when the Hadden events took place.”

While two top administrators at Columbia, who were not in their current roles during the time of the alleged abuse, expressed solidarity with the victims in a September statement, spokespersons for the university and the New York attorney general’s office have not provided immediate responses to requests for comments.

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