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Ex-Fordham professor fired for allegedly masturbating on Zoom class sues university

A professor fired from Fordham University after he was accused of masturbating during a Zoom lecture is suing the Bronx school, claiming his erectile dysfunction made the allegation “virtually impossible.”

The student who filmed the video is also suing Fordham, claiming she faced retaliation after she turned over the awkward 2020 video.

Howard Robinson, 68, was a tenured professor at the university’s Graduate School of Social Service when graduate student Andrea Morin filmed a video of the teacher appearing to masturbate during a Sept. 10, 2020 class, the lawsuits state.

But Robinson said in a Sept. 16 petition in Bronx Superior Court that his erectile dysfunction and low testosterone levels make it “virtually impossible for him to get an erection or masturbate,” which he had told school officials in the subsequent inquiry. 

Morin alleged in her lawsuit she saw Morin “from above his waist, and observed him for a period of 1.5 minutes, during which time he was shaking, breathing hard, and saying ..oh f*** yeah.” This happened as students had broken out into separate “breakout rooms,” and she had her camera turned off due to illness, court records allege.

She recorded the incident on her cellphone and reported it the same day, according to the complaint against the school, filed on Sept. 21 in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

Robinson, who was a tenured professor at Fordham, claims he was struggling not to urinate due to an enlarged prostate during the time of the alleged incident.
Robinson, who was a tenured professor at Fordham, claims he was struggling not to urinate due to an enlarged prostate during the time of the alleged incident.
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Morin claimed she contacted Steve Albanese, the associate dean of the School and Professional and Continuing Studies about the incident, after she was initially dissuaded from doing so by school counselors. She sent an email to Albanese sharing details of the alleged incident as well as the video she had recorded.  On Sept. 12, 2020 the lawsuit states Robinson emailed Morin asking her “how she was feeling,” and that he was “thinking about her.”

Robinson, of Somers, is petitioning to have his position reinstated at the college, claiming that in the video he was not masturbating but struggling not to urinate due to an enlarged prostate and other medical problems. He was typing away an email to his students to send a PowerPoint at the same time, his lawsuit claims.

Morin actually saw Robinson “grimacing and shifting his weight in his seat as he rushed to complete the message to his class before relieving himself,” the petition said. 

Robinson was fired from the university following what his petition called a “flawed investigation,” that did not permit him the chance for a hearing.

If sexual misconduct violations fall under Title IX, Robinson would be entitled to a live hearing from both parties, according to the suit. For allegations outside of Title IX, there is no hearing. The school determined that the incident fell outside of Title IX, the lawsuit said — which his petition called “patently absurd.”

“There can be no dispute that a professor masturbating in front of a student in class would be severe sexual harassment that falls within the scope of Title IX, and would thus require the due process protections prescribed by the May 2020 Title IX regulations,” the legal papers stated.

Robinson was replaced by another full-time, tenured professor who Morin claims failed her in retaliation for her complaint against Robinson.  As a result of failing the course — her only failing grade out of an otherwise healthy GPA of 3.52 — she lost access to her program scholarship and did not complete her course of study in time to graduate in May 2021, her lawsuit claims. That a delay in graduation prevented her from receiving a raise at her job, it further alleges.


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