Gay Medical Student Files Suit Against Columbia University, Says Supervisor Harassed Him on Grindr

Alberto Leguina, a Columbia University PhD medical student and former associate from Chile has filed suit against the school, claiming that his supervisor harassed him over the gay hook-up app Grindr, and after he complained about it, the human resources department shunned and then fired him, the Columbia Spectator reports:

LeguinaOn March 9, Leguina received a message on Grindr, a smartphone application for gay and bisexual men looking to meet others, asking him if he “would date an older man,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 27.

Leguina, uninterested, said he ignored the message, and when it was followed by a picture of [his supervisor, Qais Al-Awqati, a professor of medicine, nephrology and hypertension], he figured it was a prank.

However, the response convinced him the message really was from the professor. “I have many guys as beautiful and as young as you,” Al-Awqati responded on Grindr, according to the lawsuit. “So it is not a joke. You need to have better manners when in New York. Maybe in Argentina or Chile, you are a spoiled Mamma’s boy.”

Leguina said he was confused—was this really one of the leading experts in hypertension? “Qais Al-Awqati was the one who I wanted to work with. He’s a reference for me,” he said. “It was my dream. I was doing what I wanted, I was working on what I wanted, with whom I really wanted to work.”

Leguina rejected Al-Awqati's advances, and was then threatened by the professor. After seeking help from another supervisor and a human resources representative who promised to assist him, the case took a turn:

Leguina met with Marte-Miraz in HR on March 15. “She promised me that nothing was going to happen, that they were going to make an investigation,” Leguina said. “She said, ‘Don’t worry, I promise you your work is not going to be affected.’”

Only a few days later, Marte-Miraz allegedly told Leguina to “deal with this matter as a big man” and that he “must pretend nothing happened.” She threatened to send Leguina back to Chile if he hired a lawyer and told him he could not contact any authorities in Chile regarding the situation, according to Leguina.

There's much more to the case at the paper's website….


  1. Derrick from Philly says

    I believe the young man’s story. What kind of a person sets out to destroy someone’s life just because they don’t want to have sex with him? Yes, universities have some nasty motha’ f.ckas too. Professor-my azz.

  2. luminum says

    How horrendous. If the allegations are true, I hope everyone involved gets fired, fined, and jailed. Just terrible…

  3. Francis says

    Given the fact that I read of another sexual harassment incident occurring at Columbia against a woman recently, I definitely believe this story. This is really, really horrible, cannot imagine the stress that Alberto was under. I’m guessing the university will settle out of court and attempt to sweep this under the rug.

  4. It Happened to Me says

    And what is with these heifers he was working with covering for the skeezy old man? A female HR person not taking claims of sexual harrassment seriously is like an African-American denying the existence of racism.

  5. Foxes in the Hen House says

    This is looking pretty ironic about now. Remember the name: Mayra Marte-Miraz

    “I am writing to express my sincere thanks for the outstanding training held on harassment and discrimination through the Cornell Interactive Theater Group (CITE). The program was an immediate and obvious success, and your team was fantastic! Both divisional units have thanked me for having the training and have also stated that the program and facilitators made it a real success.

    The interactive theatre engaged the groups (quite differently but nonetheless engaged) to talk about the issues surrounding harassment, sexual harassment and respect in the workplace and not only understand the policies but acknowledge that each of us has a role in the process of securing a positive and safe environment. Your program is an excellent vehicle to engage in conversation around topics we so seldom speak of but affect our daily lives. I have already made a pitch to our other units to consider holding the same type of training in the near future.”

    Mayra Marte-Miraz
    Director of Operations
    Columbia University, Department of Medicine

  6. Harrison says

    I’ve experienced the same thing. I’m an American who conducted my postdoctoral training in the lab of a famous scientist in France. In fact, he’s since won the Nobel Prize. He would massage my shoulders, blow in my ear, tell me what a “handsome young man” I am . . . even criticize my clothes and shoes! France has very poor sexual harassment laws. Bad if you’re a woman, worse if you’re a man. I left after 11 months. This abuse is far more common in universities than anyone realizes.

  7. Anonymous says

    I work at a university, and this is much more common than the general public will ever know. Human Resource departments are not there to protect the student, but to protect the interests of the institution (especially administrators and faculty). Discrimination against LGBT, persons with disabilities, and against women by misogynistic male faculty occur every year on our campus, and it all gets swept under the rug by Human Resources and Judicial Affairs.

  8. Bill says

    It’s irritating when women pull that “be a man” stuff. Anyway, sex isn’t always a bad thing so I don’t know why people are so up in arms. Yes, the professor should have backed off once Alberto said no. As the professor noted there are plenty of fish in the sea.

  9. daftpunkydavid says

    minor correction: he’s not a medical student, but a grad student (=PhD student).

    also, we don’t yet have the full story… but it sure seems like a sad story, whatever happens…

  10. John says

    Stories like this make me sad. I work in the HR Department of a large employer in the EEO Division. I take all complaints very seriously. Unfortunately I know that many employees have doubts about the process and don’t come forward with their complaints and then miss their opportunity to have their complaints investigated due to filing deadlines.

    I also know from personal experience that many HR professionals do not understand their role when it comes to EEO complaints. They erroneously believe that their role is to protect the employer and deny all wrongdoing. Our role is to determine if there is misconduct and to make sure any misconduct ceases. The way we protect the employer is not deny that harassment has occurred, but rather to adequately and promptly address the problem as soon as we are put on notice and to ensure that supervisors are appropriately trained on these issues and know the consequences. Proper handling of complaints and good training protects employers from liability. Failure to handle these complaints is what opens employers up to liability.

    Worse yet, the failure to properly address complaints erodes trust in the complaint system so employees feel they have to put up with misconduct or that they have to quit. No one should have to feel that way at work. It people like Ms. Marte-Miraz that make it more difficult for EEO specialists like me to help create a harassment-free workplace.

  11. Keith says

    I live in the same neighborhood and remember chatting with Alberto. He had mentioned that his boss was harassing him on Grindr. We lost touch after a few innocent conversations. It’s a shame this happened to him. He seemed like a intelligent, genuinely nice guy.

    Small world.

  12. DannyEastVillage says

    Mayra-Miraz is the one who needs to learn about The Big City. She sounds absolutely disgusting. Clearly this is not about harassment policy but about Politics straight up (so to say). I hope Columbia really gets taken to the cleaners.

  13. Gabe R L says

    Note: if he is getting his Ph.d at a medical school then he is a medical student, just not training to be a clinician

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