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Ousted Driver Sues Harvard

Shuttle driver, fired after allegedly punching student, claims discrimination

By William C. Marra, Crimson Staff Writer

The shuttle driver who was involved in an altercation with two varsity football players on April 29 was fired by Harvard this weekend, and he has responded by filing a discrimination suit against the University.

Jack M. Garvey, 47, who worked as a shuttle driver for five and a half years, said he was dismissed Friday without a formal hearing and that he was not given any severance package except for the paid vacation days he had accumulated.

The firing stems from an altercation involving Garvey and football players Danny P. Lane ’07 and James R. Velissaris ’07 on the day of the team’s annual barbeque in Currier House. While the altercation has resulted in no arrests, Harvard coach Tim Murphy suspended Lane and Velissaris for the team’s opening game next season.

Garvey said yesterday that after the barbeque, members of the team—many of whom appeared to be inebriated—tried to board the shuttle of another driver, Gabe Pognon, with tables and grills. Garvey said that Pognon and the football players were involved in a “heated discussion,” so Garvey stepped out of his shuttle to address the situation.

Garvey said Velissaris tried to get on his shuttle with a table, and that when Garvey told him that he could not, Velissaris cursed at him several times.

Garvey said he felt physically threatened by Velissaris, and that he thought Velissaris was going to hit him with the table, so he pushed Velissaris away.

Velissaris wrote in a statement yesterday that he “in no way physically threatened” Garvey.

“He got off the bus in response to a comment I made to him, while [I was] walking away from the bus,” Velissaris wrote. “He said, ‘Why don’t you say that to my face,’ as he approached me while I was holding a table, and punched me in the chin knocking my sunglasses off the top of my head.”

“I am being held accountable for my verbal dispute with the bus driver, and, likewise, he should be held accountable for his assault on a defenseless Harvard student,” he wrote.

Though Garvey admitted to initiating physical contact, he denied punching Garvey.

“All I did was pushed him away,” Garvey said. “I didn’t punch him in the chin.”

Garvey said he was particularly afraid of being hit because he has a serious medical condition, and that because of the condition, an injury will pose a significant risk to his health.

Garvey declined to identify the disease, though he said that he was diagnosed with it this past September and that his supervisors at Harvard were aware of the situation.

He said he filed a discrimination suit in state court alleging the University fired him because of his disease. He did not specify what damages he is seeking.

Garvey said that after he pushed Velissaris, Lane pushed him to the ground. He said Lane was then escorted by his teammates into Currier, while three other football players pinned Garvey against the bike rack on the front of his shuttle.

In a statement last week, Lane said he pushed Garvey to defend his teammate.

“I intervened (pushed the driver) in James’ defense in order to cease any further attack from taking place,” Lane wrote in an e-mail. “Again, we are both sorry for our part in this incident and how much negative attention it has brought upon our football team.”

Lane declined to comment yesterday.

Garvey said that he filed a police report with the Harvard University Police Department, and that on Monday, May 1, two days after the incident, he was told to go home with paid leave.

On Thursday afternoon, he said, he received a phone call from Allen McWade, the business manager of AFL-CIO Local 877, the union that represents Harvard’s shuttle drivers. According to Garvey, McWade told him that he had until 1 p.m. the next day to resign, or the University would fire him.

“I told him, ‘No I’m not resigning. Roll up the sleeves and get ready to fight for me,’” Garvey said.

McWade did not return a phone call and message left at his office yesterday.

Garvey, who has a wife and three children, one of whom is still in college, said that his job had paid him $54,000 last year, plus over $6,000 in benefits.

He said that the union has not succeeded in scheduling a hearing for his complaint, but that his lawsuit would be heard in court on Aug. 10.

“I had no due process…Last time I remember, we live America, and you get a hearing,” he said. “I’ve been a good employee.”

—Staff writer William C. Marra can be reached at

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