College administrators are “working in collaboration” with the Government Department to manage fallout from recent sexual harassment allegations made against Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said in an interview Monday.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in late February that at least 10 women are alleging Dominguez committed repeated acts of sexual harassment across the past three decades. Now, the total count of women making allegations against Dominguez has risen to at least 18.
The accusations have sparked turmoil on Harvard’s campus, prompting administrators to put Dominguez on “leave.” Following his placement on leave, Dominguez said he would retire amidst growing student outcry and debate.
In the wake of the revelations, University President Drew G. Faust said she and other administrators had no knowledge of allegations against Dominguez before the Chronicle published its Feb. 27 story. Khurana also said Monday he had no prior knowledge of the allegations.
“I was not aware of these issues that had been described,” Khurana said.
Previous Harvard administrators sanctioned Dominguez for sexual misconduct once already, decades ago. In 1983, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences disciplined Dominguez for allegedly sexually harassing Terry L. Karl, then an associate professor in the Government Department.
Now, administrators could punish Dominguez once again. Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced in a March 4 email sent to Harvard affiliates that the University has opened an investigation into allegations against the professor.
Harvard will take into account the outcome of its ongoing investigation into Dominguez in determining whether Dominguez will receive the rights and privileges normally provided to retired faculty members, FAS spokesperson Anna G. Cowenhoven said in early March.
Khurana said College administrators have collaborated with multiple Harvard offices since allegations against Dominguez surfaced in the Chronicle.
“The College, working through the Office of Undergraduate Education and through our Title IX office, has been working in collaboration with the Government Department to see how we can best support our students during this time,” he said.
In recent weeks, students and faculty in that department have decried Dominguez’s alleged sexual harassment. In early March, graduate students sent a letter to Government Department faculty condemning their handling of sexual assault accusations against Dominguez and demanding the department take steps to address “years of apparent negligence” towards issues of sexual misconduct.
The department also formed a “standing committee” to investigate the “conditions” that allowed Dominguez to remain active in the department for decades while allegedly sexually harassing at least 18 women throughout that time period, department administrators wrote in a letter sent to undergraduate concentrators.
Other University administrators have also vowed to extend support to students in the aftermath of the Dominguez allegations. In an email announcing Dominguez’s “administrative leave” earlier this month, Smith wrote it is “imperative” that Harvard lend support to those who have suffered sexual harassment.
“We will use every means at our disposal to ensure that we create a safe and healthy community in which people can thrive,” Smith wrote.
University Provost Alan M. Garber ’77 wrote in an email to University affiliates shortly after the Chronicle’s first piece ran that Harvard is committed to creating a “safe and healthy educational and work environment.”
Garber asked Harvard affiliates to come forward if they had experienced sexual harassment or assault.
Khurana said Monday he hopes all acts of sexual misconduct will eventually be eradicated from Harvard’s campus.
“This is a very distressful thing that happened,” Khurana said. “Sexual harassment, sexual assault, treating anybody in a disrespectful way that doesn’t respect their bodily integrity is unacceptable.”
“I hope for Harvard College and Harvard University to be a place where each individual can expect to be in a place that they experience a sense of respect,” Khurana added.
—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.
—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.
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