Vancouver Province

Thursday 28 October 1999

According to Her: Professor wanted sex, she wanted grad school

Jason Proctor, Staff Reporter The Province (Vancouver)

Stuart Davis, The Province / Student Fariba Mahmoodi is awarded $13,000 in sex-harassment claim.

Candles, soft music, a crackling fire, wine and intimate conversation: What was supposed to be a business meeting between professor and student turned out more like a date.

At the heart of the claim made by Fariba Mahmoodi, 37, to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is a question of power.

Clea Parfitt, Mahmoodi's lawyer, said yesterday that a man of Don Dutton's reputation -- established author, powerful professor, witness at the O.J. Simpson trial -- should have known better than to meet a student in circumstances that were at best dubious, at worst sinister.

Mahmoodi went to the University of B.C. psychology professor's house twice -- at his suggestion, she said. On the first occasion, Dec. 30, 1994, she said, he met her at the door with a glass of wine in his hand. His wife was in Mexico. He talked about a previous girlfriend, also Iranian.

They sat so close their arms touched, and as she held a book of photographs in her lap, he flipped the pages. Mahmoodi testified she could hear his breathing.

The next time, on Jan. 6, 1995, Dutton made dinner. He identified the woman standing in a picture with him as friend, Mahmoodi said. She was, in fact, his wife.

A tape of the events -- Mahmoodi claims it was recorded accidentally while Dutton taped her some music; Dutton says she set him up with a portable recorder -- has Dutton uttering the words ". . . had physical contact for quite a long time. . . ."

Mahmoodi claimed sexual contact followed, but the tribunal decision declines to comment on that allegation.

Regardless, Parfitt said, after two sensuous evenings, Mahmoodi understood she had a deal with Dutton -- she would provide her friendship in return for his help in getting her into graduate school.

When things turned sour, she apparently got angry, threatened Dutton and handed out pamphlets outside his classroom.

The tribunal also heard that Mahmoodi faked a reference letter and cheated welfare.

Parfitt knows that evidence made her client, who is now a part-time student, look bad. But at the end of the day, the facts of the case speak for themselves, she said.

"A lot of what he loses on is his own evidence," said Parfitt.