Professor Files Charge Alleging University Violated Title IX in Denying Her Tenure

Associate Anthropology professor Kimberly Theidon filed a charge against the University with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in late March, alleging that the University violated Title IX by denying her tenure in May 2013 for engaging in speech and conduct protected by federal anti-discrimination law.

Kimberly Theidon
Associate Professor of Anthropology Kimberly Theidon filed a charge against the University last month, saying that she was denied tenure last May in connection with her public advocacy for sexual assault victims.

Theidon, who holds the title of John J. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences—an endowed position—said that although she received indication that she was a strong candidate for tenure, she was ultimately denied a permanent professorship at the University. She alleges that the denial was in retaliation for her public expressions of support for sexual assault victims, as well as for complaining that she was not receiving the same pay as her male colleagues.

“This is about silencing a problem on this campus,” Theidon said in an interview Thursday. She said that she had advocated for sexual assault victims in a variety of ways, ranging from statements she made in the classroom, to private conversations with students, to comments she posted online.

Keith Healey of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination confirmed Thursday that the state administrative agency is actively investigating Theidon’s complaint to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that an act of discrimination occurred, in which case a fact-finding hearing would ultimately be convened. Unless Theidon moves the case to court or the parties resolve it by settlement, it could take over a year for the Commission to decide the issue, he added.

Theidon said that she hopes to see a conclusion in which Harvard “evaluate[s] its sexual assault prevention and response.” Theidon also said that she has appealed the University’s tenure decision. She provided excerpts of her MCAD charge to The Crimson, but declined to produce the full document. The University will have the opportunity to respond to her charges in a position statement, which has not yet been filed.

Theidon alleges that the University’s decision to deny her tenure was influenced largely by comments she posted in March 2013 in response to a Crimson article about sexual assault at Harvard. There, Theidon defended the anonymous victims of sexual assault who were quoted in The Crimson, and argued against self-identified “men’s rights” activists commenting on the story.

Theidon said Thursday that before commenting on the article, she had learned that the women interviewed for it had read others’ comments arguing against their claims of sexual assault, leaving them feeling “violated all over again.”

In another case cited in the complaint, Theidon said that she provided counsel for a female student who alleged that a male faculty member had sexually harassed her. Theidon said she told that student to speak with the University Ombudsman. Later, Theidon alleged, the student informed her that she had been approached by two faculty members who instructed her to keep Theidon out of the proceedings because her involvement would threaten the associate professor’s future at Harvard.

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