About 65 Harvard employees, students, and community members protested in front of the Holyoke Center early Thursday evening in support of Johany Pilar, a science center mailroom worker who says she was sexually harassed.
For about an hour, protesters listened to several speakers, chanted, and marched in circles. The rally was sponsored by student groups such as Black Harvard Women, Harvard College International Women’s Rights Collective, Harvard Socialists at GSAS, and Harvard Student Labor Action Movement.
“I think that the large number of students who showed up was a testament to the fact that people are angry enough,” Student Labor Action Movement member Kirin Gupta ’16 said. “The protest showed the outrage that Harvard has brought upon itself.”
Pilar, who was present at the protest but did not speak, publicly shared her story for the first time at a Rape Culture Panel hosted by the IWRC last week.
At the panel, Pilar said that a co-worker grabbed her face on two separate occasions last spring and said he wanted to kiss her. Pilar felt uncomfortable and immediately reported the incident to the management, who she said prevented her from attending therapy sessions and threatened her with disciplinary action or termination.
Flyers distributed at the event said that Pilar has filed a complaint with the Massachussetts Commission Against Discrimination.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin declined to comment on the specific case but said in an emailed statement to the Crimson that the University takes such allegation seriously. The University, he wrote, maintains a “policy of non-retaliation to encourage employees to come forward with complaints so that allegations can be investigated.”
Pilar told The Crimson that the rally demonstrates to others who have been harassed the supportive community surrounding this issue.
“I don’t want to shut my mouth,” Pilar said.
Geoffrey P. Carens, a library assistant and Pilar’s representative in the Harvard Union of Clerical Technical Workers, led many of the protest’s chants and introduced its speakers. He said that the purpose of the event was to raise public awareness about Pilar’s situation and sexual harassment in general.
Protesters said that they want Harvard to respond directly to Pilar’s case and change their policies in handling workers’ grievances.
“We want Harvard to issue a formal apology to Johany and make sure that she never has to work with that man again,” Amanda Haziz-Ginsberg, a recent Divinity School graduate and member of Harvard Socialists at GSAS, said. “Enough is enough. We will not put up with this.”
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