A group of students from the University of British Columbia is filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the university was too slow to act on allegations of sexual misconduct against a PhD student from Russia.

Caitlin Cunningham graduated with a Masters in history from UBC – a prestigious degree from a top university that she says let her down.

Cunningham alleges a 28-year-old student in the history department assaulted her off campus in April 2013. She didn’t contact police at the time, but after hearing other UBC students were making similar claims she came forward to the university the following summer.

“I realized that I had information about somebody and that he could be potentially endangering other people, so I thought it was worth my time and energy to come forward,” she said, noting that the complaint process dragged on for 18 months. 

“I’ve had to detail the incident so many different times, I've had to revisit the emotional responses I had in the moment…it has been extraordinarily difficult.”

While the university investigated her claim – and several others – the student remained at school for nearly two years. 

Paul Krause, UBC associate professor of history, believes that students and faculty should have been warned about the student. 

“We at least could have warned members of the history department and the larger community that we had a predator a serial predator in our midst,” he said. 

UBC won’t discuss why it took so long to expel the student, who Sara-Jane Finlay, associate VP of equity and inclusion, said was expelled within the last month.

“I can tell you he's no longer a student at UBC,” said Finlay. “We will be undertaking an independent review of this particular case and I’m hoping we will learn something from that that can help us to improve.”

That’s not good enough for the students, who are filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal.

“It’s about how UBC has failed and created harm to general community how it’s failed in the various legal duties that it has,” says former student Glynnis Kirchmeier, who is filing the complaint. 

Cunningham agrees. 

“By coming forward I thought I was doing the university a favor,” she says. “[I feel this has] has undermined me professionally and undermined me intellectually…and left me unsupported emotionally.” 

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson