UPDATED: March 3, 10:38 p.m.
Government concentrators—some in tears—said they were frustrated and upset by alleged sexual harassment perpetrated by Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez at a department-wide meeting held Friday.
The meeting followed a Feb. 27 article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education that reported at least 10 women are accusing Dominguez of various acts of sexual harassment perpetrated over the past 30 years. Government department chair Jennifer L. Hochschild sent an email to concentrators Thursday inviting them to the Friday meeting talk about the allegations and the “general climate” of the Government department regarding gender and harassment issues.
Junior faculty member Terry Karl alleged that Dominguez, chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, made sexual advances to her over the course of two years starting in 1981, according to the Chronicle. Karl told the Chronicle she had repeatedly asked him to stop and had informed multiple Harvard administrators about his behavior. Other women told the Chronicle Dominguez had sexually harassed them around the same time and in years since.
Elena D. Sokoloski ’18, a Government concentrator who attended the meeting, said she started the social media campaign “#DominguezMustGo” in response to reading about allegations against Dominguez. Sokoloski said she believes Dominguez should be fired.
“Ideally, he would be removed,” Sokloski said.
Another attendee, Carla E. Troconis ’19, said that she felt like she had no choice but to study under Dominguez because he’s one of only three professors specializing in Latin American studies within the Government department.
“It can’t be a reality that someone like this would be allowed around students, somebody to be admired,” she said.
Dominguez declined to comment via a spokesperson.
The University placed sanctions on Dominguez in 1983, barring him from administrative duties. But Dominguez has since remained active as a professor in the Government department and has held numerous leadership roles since the 1980s, such as vice provost for international affairs.
Senior faculty members and administrators, including Hochschild, Dean of Social Sciences Claudine Gay, Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser, and Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris came to the Friday meeting to update students and answer questions.
In an interview before the event, Hochschild said the department was hosting the event in order to answer questions that students may have and give them a chance to talk to faculty and administrators.
“I think most of the meeting ought to be letting students ask questions, tell us things, express outrage, express support if they want to, say whatever they want,” Hochschild said.
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Kwok W. Yu and College Title IX Coordinator Emily J. Miller also attended the meeting to inform students of the University’s Title IX policies.
The first student to speak, Emily E. Bergquist ’18, said she and other Government concentrators chose to organize a protest after hearing about the meeting. Bergquist and several other attendees wore black during the event in honor of the “Time’s Up” movement, started Jan. 2018 by Hollywood celebrities in response to a wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations sweeping the entertainment industry.
Multiple students asked faculty members present at the meeting why the University has not taken any public disciplinary action against Dominguez since the 1983 sanctions.
“Whatever the legal definition, sexual harassment is a crime, an unconscionable theft of dignity that poisons our relationships and our institutions,” Howard Georgi wrote.
University spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven wrote in an emailed statement Friday that Harvard is committed to creating an “environment that values the dignity and well-being” of all school affiliates.
“We take seriously the concerns about Prof. Dominguez’s conduct that were recently brought forward by former students,” Cowenhoven wrote. “Upon learning of them prior to the Chronicle’s story, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) immediately began reaching out to students and post-docs who have worked closely with Prof. Dominguez to ask about their experiences.”
At the meeting Friday, students recounted the personal toll allegations against Dominguez had taken on their studies. Troconis spoke about a class she took last fall taught by the professor.
Troconis said her mother called her last semester when she found out about the previously reported 1983 allegations against Dominguez—not the new allegations reported by the Chronicle—in the middle of class.
“I mean, my mother knew. And in the middle of the class, she expressed concern, but I couldn’t drop the class,” Troconis said, because she needed the class for her program of study.
Sara S. Fellman ’18 said that while the event Friday answered some of her questions, she wants to see the University take more definite action.
“I think we were hoping to get a commitment to action on the power dynamics, to prevent this from happening again in the Government department, and at Harvard,” Fellman said.
Because Dominguez is a tenured professor, the Government department does not have the power to remove him. A copy of Harvard statutes revised in 2004 states that only the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, can dismiss a permanently appointed faculty member for “grave misconduct or neglect of duty.”
—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.
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