Former prof faces misconduct allegations

Samuel Wolf

A former professor at the College and prominent attorney has come under fire for an  inappropriate sexual relationship with a student while teaching at the College. 

David Sanford, who at the time was named David Weissbord, taught at the College from 1989 to 1991, and, according to multiple former students, had a months-long sexual relationship with one student in 1989. Sanford has received accolades for his work on gender discrimination cases, and recently hosted a fundraiser for former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The College did not explicitly prohibit student-faculty sexual relations at the time, and only officially amended the Faculty Handbook to prohibit such relationships in all cases in spring 2018. Nevertheless, during Sanford’s time at the College, three professors were fired for sexual misconduct with students, and faculty misconduct was a source of campus discussion. A Record article published in 1988 drew attention to male professors at colleges nationwide who coerced female students into sex (“Women suffer peer harassment,” Nov. 15, 1988).

Sanford acknowledges his relationship with a student but denied any misconduct on his part to Law and Crime, a legal news website, though he was the subject of a complaint for a separate incident involving a student in 1989. He claims that he left the College of his own volition in 1991 to attend Stanford Law School, and that he chose to change his last name from Weissbord to Sanford for unrelated personal reasons. 

After departing the College, Sanford founded a law firm, Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, that has risen into prominence for its lawsuits relating to gender discrimination and sexual misconduct. For this work, the American Lawyer magazine named Sanford as a finalist for Attorney of the Year in 2018. The firm is now litigating a $50 million lawsuit against Columbia University regarding alleged coercive sexual behavior by a former dean of students. 

Sanford has also become involved in politics, holding a fundraiser for Biden on Saturday in Bronxville, New York, with a cost of $2800 per ticket. 

Clarification (Nov. 19, 2019): An Oct. 23, 2019, news story, “Former prof faces misconduct allegations,” provided insufficient context about the position of a former faculty member on relationships between faculty members and students. John Drew does not believe every sexual encounter between a man and a woman is consensual, and he does not endorse sexual relationships between faculty members and students.