Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
This settlement constitutes a resolution to over a year of interactions between Tamanna, GLO, the University and its Title IX office.

GLO, Brown settle grievance over response to sexual assault

Settlement provides paid leave during summer for student to recover from sexual assault

This settlement constitutes a resolution to over a year of interactions between Tamanna, GLO, the University and its Title IX office.

The Graduate Labor Organization and the University reached a settlement on May 13 regarding a grievance GLO filed Feb. 6, which called on the Graduate School to provide Tabassum Tamanna GS with an extension of paid leave through the spring semester. 

Tamanna requested additional time to recover from a sexual assault she alleges occurred on Brown’s campus in spring 2023, but the Graduate School denied the request on Jan. 31. Tamanna, who was pregnant at the time and gave birth this April, used her parental leave through the spring 2024 semester. 


The settlement agreement stipulates that Tamanna’s parental leave will continue through May 31, and she will be funded through a fellowship from June 1 through Aug. 31, before resuming her academic and work responsibilities on Sept. 1. 

In return, GLO has agreed to withdraw the grievance and both parties have acknowledged that this agreement will not set any precedent for future grievances and complaints brought against the University. 

This settlement constitutes a resolution to over a year of interactions between Tamanna, GLO, the University and its Title IX office, during which Tamanna says she was not adequately supported by Brown.

In an interview with The Herald in February, Tamanna described the sequence of events leading up to the grievance filing as “a total failure of Brown’s Title IX” office. 

A petition of support released by GLO on Feb. 20, which outlines Tamanna’s experiences, accumulated over 2,400 signatures.

“While federal student privacy law prevents the University from sharing information about specific students and Title IX cases with news media, it’s important to make clear that Brown treats every report of sexual or gender-based harassment, assault or misconduct with the utmost seriousness,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.


The settlement comes as Brown continues to face legal challenges on how it carries out Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funds. 

The University has faced several lawsuits alleging that it has mishandled Title IX cases in recent years. One from March 2023 alleges a Title IX complaint was delayed for five months, while another from September 2023 alleges that Brown took 159 days to issue an investigative report and 175 to release official findings and recommendations, The Herald previously reported.

One lawsuit from 2021 alleges that Brown neglected to protect students from sexual harassment and abuse, that University employees “discouraged or even overtly prevented” students from reporting sexual misconduct and that the filed complaints were neglected and poorly investigated. 

Get The Herald delivered to your inbox daily.

What led to the grievance? 

Tamanna, a graduate student in the pathobiology program at Brown, alleges she was sexually harassed and assaulted by another employee, Mohammad Ibrahim, while working in a lab on campus between January and March of 2023.

Ibrahim, an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, turned himself in to the Providence Police Department on one count of second-degree sexual assault charges after the PPD issued a warrant for his arrest, The Herald previously reported

Tamanna filed a Title IX complaint against Ibrahim on March 7, 2023. 

Tamanna also alleges that Professor of Cancer Research Robert Sobol, her supervisor,  discouraged her from filing a Title IX complaint, instead encouraging her to resolve the issue internally, and that Sobol characterized the incidents as a misunderstanding to her and other lab employees. 

Tamanna filed another Title IX complaint against Sobol and two other members of the lab in November 2023, which representatives from GLO say has not been resolved yet. 

The settlement agreement from this month stipulates that Tamanna will not be required to work under the supervision of Sobol or the two other lab members, and that none of the three will have input in her employment or doctoral process. 

Sobol did not respond to The Herald’s request for comment. 

“Brown’s Title IX and Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct policies prohibit retaliation against individuals for making reports of conduct prohibited under those policies,” Clark wrote. “The University investigates and works to resolve complaints of retaliation every bit as vigorously as it does allegations of other prohibited conduct.”

Tamanna took four weeks of paid leave on a Short Term Medical Accommodation after experiencing the alleged sexual assault, at which point the Graduate School told Tamanna she was expected to return to the lab in the absence of requesting unpaid medical leave.

According to the Graduate School Handbook, Short Term Medical Accommodation allows graduate students to take up to four weeks of academic leave while maintaining full-time student status and privileges. During a medical leave of absence, those privileges, including financial support, are not available. 

In April, Tamanna involved GLO in her conversations with the University, requesting remediation in the form of financial support for the summer and fall semesters and a new lab placement, expressing that she did not feel Sobol’s lab was a safe work environment. 

“I submitted my doctor’s note to the Dean’s Office. I let them know about everything, but still I did not get proper support,” Tamanna said.

GLO President Sherena Razek GS characterized the Graduate School’s position as forcing Tamanna to “choose between going unpaid for months or going back into the lab where she was assaulted, when none of the harm, none of the hostile environment that enabled that assault to occur had been resolved.”

On April 28, the Graduate School informed Tamanna that it would temporarily pause her job and academic requirements but continue her financial support through the fall semester, after which she would receive a new lab placement.  

During this time, Tamanna’s Title IX investigation against Ibrahim — who is referred to as the “respondent” in Title IX communications — faced multiple delays, Tamanna said. According to the Title IX Office’s website, the investigation period for submitted complaints should last “approximately 45 business days” and “a formal resolution process may take approximately 90 business days.” 

After filing her complaint in March, Tamanna only received a final investigation report in November. 

According to Clark, when investigating a complaint, the Title IX Office “reviews all reports, follows-up with reporting parties for additional information and conducts detailed due diligence to understand the nature of allegations, supporting information and potential paths toward resolution.”

“Some cases are highly complex,” Clark added, citing the number of parties, witnesses or claims involved, differing response times from complainants and respondents and the choice to hire an attorney or translator as three reasons a case might not follow the usual timeline. 

On Nov. 20, the Title IX Office shared its Final Investigation Report. According to Title IX operating procedures, the next step would be to schedule a hearing “for a date at least 10 business days” later. 

But on Dec. 11, before any hearing took place, the Title IX Office notified Tamanna that it was dismissing the case, citing a clause in the Title IX operating procedures that allows the Office to dismiss complaints against respondents “no longer enrolled or employed at the University.”

According to GLO, the University chose not to renew Ibrahim’s contract, which expired in December 2023. 

According to Clark, “the University has no mechanism to compel continued participation in the process or to impose discipline upon someone who has no remaining relationship to Brown.” 

“For an employee, termination of a relationship with Brown is already among the most significant disciplinary actions that can result from a complaint resolution process,” he added. In such cases, the employee's personnel file would indicate that they were separated from the University while facing disciplinary investigation. 

Tamanna said she believes the University intentionally delayed the case until the respondent’s contract expired. 

“The Title IX procedure itself is like getting retraumatized again and again because they have multiple interviews and ask for thousands of documents,” Tamanna said. “It was tough on me, but still, I tried to comply with all of their demands so that the cases would be resolved and I’d get justice.”

“Ultimately, the role of the Title IX office is to ensure a process that is grounded in fairness to all parties, effectively resolves complaints and moves forward as expeditiously as circumstances allow,” Clark wrote. 

What does the grievance say?

In an email sent in January 2024, Tamanna requested that the University continue her paid leave through the spring semester, arguing that she was still experiencing PTSD from the assault, and that her recovery was impeded by the delays in the Title IX investigation. 

At the time, the University offered Tamanna two options in response to her request: she could either return to her academic work and complete a lab rotation during the spring semester or use her parental relief in the spring, which would require her to complete a lab rotation at the start of the summer semester. 

“I believe that if I get the support I need, it will give me time to heal and focus on myself, and at least to return to my work so that I can complete my degree,” Tamanna told The Herald in February. “But my current mental and physical condition are not up to the mark.” 

On Feb. 6, GLO submitted a grievance against the University, calling for Tamanna to be placed on paid leave through the spring so she could use her parental relief in the summer.

The grievance argued that Brown had violated Article IX.8 of GLO’s collective bargaining agreement, which states that the University “will take and/or make available reasonable and appropriate measures to protect a Graduate Student Employee’s access to Brown University employment,” including remedial action “designed to address a complainant’s safety and well-being and continued access to educational opportunities.”

According to Razek, the University did not respond to the grievance within the contractually stipulated time of 10 business days.

GLO followed up on its grievance twice, first on Feb. 12 and then on Feb. 27, but only received a response on March 4. In its response, the Graduate School proposed March 13 as the earliest possible meeting time. 

On March 8, GLO “escalated the grievance to arbitration” because Brown failed to schedule a meeting within the contractually agreed timeline, Razek wrote in a message to The Herald. 

“It’s never acceptable for the employer to violate the terms of our contract, but to do so in a case of sexual assault in the workplace, with time-sensitive elements, after Tabassum has already suffered from the harmful delays of the Title IX Office is beyond unacceptable,” Razek wrote. 

The past and future of Brown’s Title IX policies

Tamanna said she only decided to publicize the case in the Feb. 20 petition because she felt she had exhausted her options with the University. “Other students who face similar situations, not only from Brown but also from other universities, have the right to know this story so they can also speak up,” she said. 

“I don’t believe I am asking for anything unreasonable from Brown,” she said. “The assault happened on Brown’s campus and was done by a Brown employee. He assaulted me, and when I reached out to Brown, they did not protect me.”

Razek described GLO’s involvement as an attempt to not only support Tabassum, but also to prevent “other women and other grads from going through this type of harm and being abandoned by the University or forced back to work when they are in treatment and unwell because of Brown's enablement of assault or abuse to take place in the workplace.” 

“I believe that this time, Brown will make some changes in their policies and start supporting survivors,” Tamanna added.  

“Every element of Brown’s approach to preventing and responding to issues of incidents of sexual misconduct is based on the reality that this is a serious issue, not only at colleges and universities across the U.S., but beyond campuses as well,” Clark wrote. “Brown has made it an institutional priority to address this reality, and the experiences and perspectives of students and others impacted by sexual misconduct have been instrumental in informing the actions we’ve taken.”

“Through a strategic and sustained approach and the efforts of campus leaders, faculty, staff and students across the University, we have collectively made meaningful change — and our students have reported that we have made meaningful change” in how it addresses sexual misconduct, Clark wrote. “Among many other actions, Brown created a Title IX and Gender Equity Office, implemented unified policies on sexual and gender-based violence, trained students, faculty and staff across campus, required education for first-year students, launched and supported peer education programs and advocated on federal policy.”

“This progress comes from the collective work of our community, but as long as this is a societal problem, we don’t expect the work ever to be done,” Clark continued. “We remain resolute in our commitment to preventing and responding to incidents and encouraging a culture in which every member of the Brown community takes responsibility for addressing this challenge and supporting those who are most directly impacted.”

Katie Jain

Katie Jain is a University News editor from New Jersey overseeing the graduate student life beat. She is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs and History.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.