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City College ‘separates’ from vice chancellor following sexual harassment lawsuit

City College of San Francisco’s associate vice chancellor of student services was removed from his position at the college Tuesday after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him by a community college student in Los Angeles.

Shalamon Duke, a former dean of Disabled Students Programs at West Los Angeles College, is accused of sexually harassing a student at that college for years, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Duke, who has been employed by City College since June, has been “separated” from the college and “will not return to his duties,” City College spokesperson Connie Chan confirmed Tuesday.

Chan declined to comment further, citing personnel matters.

Duke resigned from West Los Angeles College following a Title IX investigation last December.

The lawsuit alleges that Duke repeatedly requested sexual favors of 29-year-old Sarah Murphy, a West Los Angeles Community College student who was receiving services from Disabled Student Services and also worked in that office, in exchange for financial stability, according to court documents. 

The lawsuit accuses Duke of a “gross abuse of power” in his position as Murphy’s superior, including “repeatedly propositioning [Murphy] to meet him off campus, requesting that she send him photographs of herself masturbating, and demanding that [she] perform oral sex on him.” 

In exchange, Duke allegedly offered to use his position to “take care” of Murphy, according to the lawsuit.

Murphy is also suing the West Los Angeles Community college for failing to prevent the harassment, which she allegedly reported early on.

Murphy qualifies for special education services at the college, which she still attends, due to a diagnosed anxiety disorder with a processing disorder, according to court documents. Murphy also suffers from short-term memory loss. 

According to the lawsuit, Duke had substantial control over employees in his office, including authority over decisions related to hiring, firing, compensation and promotions, among other things.  According to the suit, Murphy’s hourly wage “fluctuated between $14-20” depending her compliance with Murphy’s requests for sexual favors, including sending explicit photos and performing oral sex.

After several failed attempts to report Duke’s misconduct, the college’s retiring direct supervisor ultimately addressed it with the college’s vice president of administrative services, triggering an investigation last December.

Murphy alleges that she has since been subject to “retaliatory behavior” by Duke’s allies and subordinates and continued harassment by Duke, who allegedly was permitted to return to campus without prior notice to Murphy. 

In the summer, Duke allegedly propositioned Murphy to “resolve the matter” outside of the college’s involvement, relaying the message through a janitor employed with the college.

In July, Duke sued the West Los Angeles Community College over failing to provide records on his performance and grievances, according to court documents.

According to Chan, City College considers “professional references provided by the applicants as a vetting tool during the hiring process.”

She added that the college is not privy to “another agency’s internal investigation,” unless the applicant chooses to disclose that information. 

“In addition, the College is also not privy to information unless an applicant or an employee volunteers the information to the College on their pending lawsuit against another entity or individual,” Chan said.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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