Former Professor Files Federal Lawsuit in Response to Tenure Denial

Kimberly Theidon, a former Harvard associate anthropology professor, filed a lawsuit against the University Thursday in federal court, reiterating allegations that Harvard denied her tenure in May 2013 for advocating for victims of sexual assault. 

The complaint—which names Harvard and the Harvard Corporation as defendants—reiterates several allegations that Theidon previously made in a complaint she filed roughly a year ago with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging that Harvard’s decision to deny her tenure violated the federal anti-sex discrimination law Title IX. She later withdrew that complaint and indicated her plans to sue the University.

Prior to filing the initial charge, Theidon had appealed Harvard’s decision to deny her tenure.

Theidon’s Thursday complaint alleges that Harvard “retaliat[ed] against her by denying her tenure immediately after and because...she supported” a student campaign to reexamine the school’s response to complaints of sexual assault.

Additionally, Theidon alleges in the complaint that she was denied tenure because she opposed what she viewed as a “sexually hostile environment” for women who complained about sexual assault and harassment at Harvard. Finally, the 34-page complaint alleges that the University denied Theidon tenure because of her gender.

The complaint says this “retaliation” violated Title IX and anti-employment discrimination law Title VII.

In the complaint, Theidon specifies a number of concerns regarding how her gender allegedly affected her ultimate tenure decision. She claims that she was held to a higher standard than male peers and received “less pay and work space than those accorded to males who had less experience or productivity.” Theidon also alleges that Judith D. Singer, senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity, was aware of “one or more of Theidon’s gender based concerns.”

In particular the complain hlighted Theidon's response to a March 2013 Crimson article about sexual assault at Harvard, according to the complaint. In her comments on the story, Theidon offered a defense of the anonymous sexual assault victims quoted in the story.

Neither Theidon nor Harvard spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga could be reached for comment late Thursday night. 

Harvard employed Theidon until June 2014, when her contract expired and her formal relationship with the University ended. When still at Harvard, she held the title of  John L. Loeb associate professor of the social sciences, an endowed position. Theidon’s complaint says that, prior to being denied tenure, she had received indication that she was in a good position to receive promotion.

Theidon joined Harvard’s faculty in 2004 and became an associate professor in 2008.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

 

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