Hyper Allergic reports that five women have come forward accusing Thomas Roma, a photographer and professor, of sexual misconduct. The incidents they outlined in interviews with the New York Times mostly occurred in the 1990s while the women were students of Roma’s at Columbia University in West Harlem and the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York.
One of the women, actress Mozhan Marno — who was an 18-year-old sophomore at Barnard College at the time of the alleged incident in 1999 — subsequently filed a written complaint to Columbia, where Roma has been teaching since 1996. An investigative panel concluded that she and Roma had been complicit in the encounter. The University failed to investigate Roma’s behavior further, according to Marno; he still teaches at Columbia, where he serves as the director of the School of the Arts’ photography program.
The four other women who spoke to the Times on the record were all students at SVA, where Roma taught for many years, and one was subsequently also his teaching assistant at Columbia. That woman, Ash Thayer, an artist and filmmaker now based in Los Angeles, claims Roma forced himself upon her in his office at Columbia in 1999, putting his penis in her mouth despite her repeated exclamations of “no.” She quickly pushed him away and fled.
Roma is a successful documentary photographer who has taught extensively at Columbia, SVA, Yale University, the Cooper Union, Fordham University, and elsewhere. He has published more than a dozen books — most recently Plato’s Dogs (2016) — many of them focusing on specific communities in his native Brooklyn. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many other institutions. He is married to Anna Roma, the daughter of modern photography pioneer Lee Friedlander.
Roma has announced his retirement from the School of the Arts, effective immediately, a Columbia University spokesperson said.