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Harvard Employee Apologizes For Asking Neighbor with Biracial Daughter If She Lives in Affordable Housing

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is based at the School of Public Health.
Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is based at the School of Public Health. By Daniel M. Lynch
By Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume, Crimson Staff Writers

A Harvard employee apologized Monday after a video in which she confronted a woman whose biracial daughter was playing outside her apartment—and asked the woman whether she lives in affordable housing—went viral over the weekend and drew widespread criticism online.

In the video, posted to Facebook July 14 by Cambridge resident Alyson Laliberte, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Executive Director Theresa A. Lund tells Laliberte that she and her daughter are being too noisy. Lund then repeatedly asks Laliberte where she lives.

“Are you in one of the affordable units? Or are you in one of the Harvard units?” Lund asks.

Since Laliberte posted the video, it has garnered more than 1 million views. In the post, Laliberte dubs Lund “another Permit Patty,” referencing a recent series of nationally publicized incidents in which white adults have confronted or called the police on black children performing everyday activities like selling lemonade. Laliberte wrote on Facebook that Lund’s actions were “discriminating and racist.”

Lund later apologized for the incident in a post on her personal Facebook page, writing there was “no reason” for her to have asked Laliberte whether she lives in affordable housing.

“I am terribly sorry about the exchange I had with my neighbor yesterday. What I said was inappropriate and wrong,” Lund wrote.

Lund also wrote that she should not have addressed Laliberte’s daughter, referencing a moment in the video where she turned to the child and said, “You are a sweetheart, I’m sorry that I’m fighting here with your mommy. She’s not being very nice.” Lund has since apologized to the mother-daughter pair in person, according to her post.

“I am accountable for my actions and ask for their forgiveness for a moment in which I fell far short of my values and what I expect of myself,” Lund wrote.

Lund has deleted her social media accounts, including Facebook. She did not respond to a request for comment.

The clip depicts Lund sitting on the sidewalk near Laliberte and her daughter. Lund complains that there is screaming outside her window.

“I’m outside enjoying the afternoon with my daughter when this woman came downstairs and asked me if I would move,” Laliberte wrote. “She followed me around and harassed me trying to get my information and apartment number as if she had a right to know.”

Laliberte wrote she was particularly offended by Lund’s question asking whether she lived in an affordable unit.

“Why do people think they are literally better than others? Why does she think she has a right to make us move?” Laliberte wrote. “I’ve lived in this complex for 15 years. Not one other person complained about my daughter and I.”

The video was shared widely across social media networks, including Twitter, where Lund earned the nickname “#SidewalkSusie” and “#NaptimeNancy.”

HHI Director Michael J. VanRooyen commented on the video Sunday afternoon, writing in a now-deleted tweet that the post does not accurately reflect Lund’s character.

“Theresa Lund is an ethical and principled individual and leader. The recent posts do not represent who she is, or who were are.#hhi #HHI2018,” his tweet read.

VanRooyen did not respond to a request for comment.

Lund appears to have disappeared from HHI’s website. Before its removal, her page stated that she has served in administrative positions at the Graduate School of Design and at the Kennedy School.

HHI is based at the School of Public Health. HSPH spokesperson Todd Datz declined to comment.

—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.

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