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Harvard Employee Who Confronted Neighbor Placed on Leave ‘Effective Immediately’

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is based at the School of Public Health.
The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is based at the School of Public Health. By Megan M. Ross
By Caroline S. Engelmayer, Crimson Staff Writer

The Harvard employee who asked a neighbor with a biracial daughter if she lives in “affordable” housing in a video that went viral and drew widespread criticism has been placed on leave.

The leave will be “effective immediately” for Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Executive Director Theresa A. Lund, the initiative’s director Michael J. VanRooyen wrote in a Facebook post Thursday night. He wrote that the organization “does not condone” Lund’s behavior in the video.

“Each of us is committed to advancing our organization’s values of belonging and inclusion,” VanRooyen wrote. “As such, HHI will implement in the coming weeks additional trainings and programs for our staff to address implicit and explicit bias.”

In a heated exchange—which Cambridge resident Alyson Laliberte filmed before posting it on social media July 14—Lund sat down next to Laliberte and her daughter and told them they were being too loud. Lund then began asking Laliberte where she lives.

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

The video has been watched almost 2 million times since Laliberte posted it. In her original post to Facebook, Laliberte called Lund “another Permit Patty,” pointing to a series of recent incidents nationwide in which white adults have accosted or called the police on black children performing everyday activities. Laliberte wrote that Lund’s actions were “discriminating and racist.”

Shortly after Laliberte posted the video, Lund apologized for her actions on her personal Facebook page, writing she should not have asked Laliberte whether she lives in affordable housing.

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

She also wrote that she apologized to the mother-daughter pair in person. Lund appears to have deleted her social media accounts.

VanRooyen’s post did not specify how long Lund would be on leave. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier, VanRooyen appears to have sought to defend Lund, writing in a now-deleted tweet that

“Theresa Lund is an ethical and principled individual and leader” and that “the recent posts do not represent who she is.”

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

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