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UC Calls for Harvard to Rehire Former HUHS Employee

The Undergraduate Council held its first meeting of the fall 2018 semester in the newly renovated Smith Campus Center.
The Undergraduate Council held its first meeting of the fall 2018 semester in the newly renovated Smith Campus Center. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council released a statement at its Sunday meeting calling for Harvard to rehire former University Health Services employee Mayli Shing, whose February firing has prompted a protracted battle between her supporters and administrators.

In her termination letter, University officials stated that Shing engaged in “insubordinate conduct in repeatedly disregarding instructions.” The letter specifically references an incident in which Shing arrived at work 30 minutes before her shift began, despite previous warnings not to do so.

Shing contends the University fired her in retaliation for filing claims of workplace racism and sexual harassment against a supervisor. Shing’s union representative, Geoffrey Carens, has pointed to her past evaluations describing her as “extremely reliable,” stating the University’s reasoning in Shing’s termination letter was “arbitrary.”

Carens and Shing’s supporters have demanded the University rehire her, as well as provide compensation for the five-month period between her firing and the time she became eligible for state unemployment benefits.

In its Sunday statement, the UC echoed these demands.

“As the world’s leading university, Harvard has a responsibility to take a stand against sexual assault,” the UC wrote. “Fear of retaliation when one bravely speaks out against sexual harassment, as Mayli did, only to be fired without unemployment benefits, is exactly why people do not come forward about sexual harassment, and what allows sexual harassment to persist.”

“As we also saw with the case of Government professor Jorge Dominguez, Harvard must work harder to prevent workplace harassment and to protect victims of such discrimination,” the statement continued. In February and March, nearly twenty women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Dominguez, who has since retired from the University.

The Council’s statement comes in the wake of multiple protests organized by a loose coalition of campus groups calling for Shing’s reinstatement. The Harvard No Layoffs Campaign, Harvard Student Labor Action Movement, and anti-sexual assault advocacy group Our Harvard Can Do Better have hosted at least four rallies to support Shing, including a demonstration in October outside the office of Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran.

University spokesperson Melodie Jackson wrote in an emailed statement Monday that Harvard values the “contributions” of its employees.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on individual personnel matters,” she wrote. “Harvard is committed to maintaining a safe, comfortable, and diverse working environment for all of its employees, and complaints of harassment and discrimination are investigated promptly and fairly under the applicable university policy.”

Carens spoke at a UC meeting in late October, urging the Council to get involved in the effort to rehire Shing.

Mather House Representative Sanika S. Mahajan ’21 — who sponsored the statement along with newly-elected UC Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20 — said the UC had an obligation to step in to support groups on campus who are advocating for Shing’s rehiring.

“It really shows survivors and allies that have gone through sexual assault or sexual harassment that the UC as a body is here to support the students, and that is something that can be very valuable,” Mahajan said.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at jonah.berger@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

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Undergraduate CouncilUHSLaborUniversityFront Middle Feature