The Government department will hire a visiting scholar in Latin American studies and will create an electronic “suggestion box" in an attempt to address the fallout from recent sexual harassment allegations made against Professor Jorge I. Dominguez.
Department chair Jennifer L. Hochschild emailed Government Ph.D. and undergraduate students Friday morning to detail initiatives the department will undertake in coming weeks to create a “safe, healthy, and intellectually exciting environment.” Hochschild also thanked students for previous open letters they sent the department and wrote that faculty are “committed” to working with students to address any issues of culture and climate within the department.
The open letters and Hochschild’s response follow two articles published in The Chronicle of Higher Education that reported 18 women are accusing Dominguez of sexual harassment over a 30-year period. Dominguez is currently on paid administrative leave while the University conducts a “full and fair review” of the allegations against him. Dominguez—on sabbatical this semester—announced Tuesday he will retire from his teaching duties at the end of the semester and that he is immediately stepping down from all his administrative duties.
Hochschild wrote in her Friday letter that, in the wake of Dominguez's departure, the department received funding for a visiting professor in Latin American studies—Dominguez’s field of study—for the 2018-2019 academic year. The new fellow will be tasked with teaching and advising graduate and undergraduate students.
The department is also creating an electronic suggestion box to which Harvard affiliates will be able to anonymously submit questions and information, according to Hochschild's letter. Hochschild wrote she will choose a faculty member to monitor the submissions and publicize the suggestion box’s existence.
In an open letter to department faculty and administrators sent Wednesday, undergraduates previously demanded the Government department work to increase the number of Latinx and Latin American Studies professors in the department.
“Jorge Dominguez was one of three Latin Americanists in the Government department, and of a very small number of Latinx professors at Harvard,” the letter read. “As Dominguez leaves the department, he must be replaced as soon as possible with at least one Latinx Latin Americanist.”
The undergraduates' letter also called for the department to offer more gender-focused government courses.
Hochschild wrote in her letter that the department will offer an undergraduate lecture course called “Feminist Political Thought” next semester and that the department is “exploring the possibility of” offering other courses on gender and politics.
Hochschild’s letter also gave further information on the standing committee that the department established Tuesday to investigate department climate. Dubbed the “Climate Change Committee,” the group will be chaired by Hochschild and professor Steven R. Levitsky. Other members include professors Danielle S. Allen, Melani C. Cammett, Ryan D. Enos, Katrina Forrester, and Jeffry A. Frieden.
Director of Graduate Studies Dustin Tingley and Director of Undergraduate Studies Cheryl B. Welch will also serve on the committee. The Government department is still searching for student and staff participants, as well as a research assistant, per Hochschild's email.
The email to students also contained a copy of a “Statement of Principles” posted on the Government department’s website Friday morning. The principles broadly outline the department’s plans to address ongoing issues in the wake of the Dominguez scandal and reaffirms the department’s “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment.
“The Department has let our students and colleagues down by not recognizing a pattern of problems, and for not establishing institutions and a culture that would empower victims,” the statement reads. “We will seek individually and collectively to address concerns about inappropriate power dynamics, gendered interactions, disruptive fear or anxiety, and other constraints on genuine discourse and free exchange of ideas.”
—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.