The Right Way to Address Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Chris Heaton, the newly-hired head coach of Harvard’s diving team, was placed on leave and subsequently resigned after a class-action suit filed in Indiana alleged that he sent inappropriate photos to and solicited nude pictures from young female swimmers. According to University spokesperson Rachael Dane, Harvard was unaware of these allegations, which happened years ago, at the time of the hiring process. We are heartened by the University’s response to these allegations as soon as they came to light and completely agree with its course of action.

While we applaud the University’s current response, we cannot ignore Harvard’s history of ignoring allegations of sexual misconduct and protecting powerful men from punishment. This includes the recent case of Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, who was allowed to keep his position for over 30 years after the first reports of sexual harassment against him emerged in 1983. All institutions must be vigilant in taking allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and preventing abuses of power. Harvard’s swift response in placing Heaton on leave following the allegations against him is a step in the right direction and hopefully reflective of the University’s commitment to protecting survivors.

While we do not know the extent of the background checks the University conducts on the people it hires, we expect that it maintain the highest level of scrutiny in hiring. To prevent cases like these — and others we may not know about— we ask the University to be more transparent in its hiring process and to remain uncompromising in conducting thorough background checks.

On the same note, we ask the University to be more transparent about the process for reviewing allegations of sexual misconduct that are made against Harvard affiliates from outside the University. With greater transparency, outside observers can make suggestions on how to improve the process, which will hopefully leading to improved reviewing practices. Moreover, where appropriate, we ask that Harvard consider involving the student body in these processes.

The University should be applauded for the actions it has taken to address these allegations of Heaton’s solicitation and distribution of nude pictures. We stand with the diving team as these allegations against their coach have surfaced. We hope that the Harvard community also stands with them, and that teammates receive support as needed during this difficult time.


This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.


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