Since allegations concerning former Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez came to light in February of 2018, the University has taken a number of administrative steps with regards to Dominguez’s case, culminating in the revocation of his emeritus status in May. Since then, the University has convened an external review committee to try to understand how the institutional context of the Government department and the University protected Dominguez for decades. But one of the women who raised allegations against Dominguez now says that she and three other accusers are “concerned” by the University’s seeming lack of concern for their stories.
In regards to the entire Dominguez affair, it has become increasingly clear that Harvard has failed. It has failed to protect its students and employees from sexual harassment, it has failed by allowing for a culture where a professor alleged to be a harasser went unchecked, and now, it is failing in its ability to hold itself accountable for its errors. The University has made it a practice to convene committees and to study problems at length, but this reaction in and of itself is not a response. Actions speak louder than words, and though the external review once seemed like a promising avenue for a constructive review of the climate surrounding this incident, these women’s concerns highlight the disturbing possibility that it will be woefully inadequate for the seriousness of the problem it seeks to study. It’s time for the University to respond with more than just another committee.
Those bringing these claims to light are courageous. Having experienced difficult and deeply uncomfortable interactions, these individuals have stood up and continue to stand up to make their voices heard. We applaud them and call on the University to treat these claims with the gravity that they deserve. These four women have gone through presumably traumatic incidents. We are incredibly grateful that they remain persistent in ensuring that the Government department and the University at large learn from these egregious incidents, and that meaningful steps are taken to ensure community members’ safety in the future.
Looking at the composition of the supposedly external review committee, we are suspicious that two thirds of its members have ties to Harvard. In light of Harvard’s poor handling of the situation in the first place, these connections could conceivably serve as reasons for the committee to protect Harvard’s reputation even when serious mistakes were made. The lack of transparency surrounding the entire investigation over the last two years means that it is incumbent on the University to take concrete steps to demonstrate that the present external review is actually committed to understanding what really went wrong and enacting meaningful change to prevent such harassment in the future.
Moving forward, we call on the reviewers to be transparent about their approach and to be clear with students and faculty about what is and isn’t being looked into. The reviewers should work to coordinate additional on-campus visits and should open written input pathways to those with meaningful testimony to offer. Anything short of this will exacerbate the distrust that many in the Government department and around the University feel — not only because of Dominguez, but because of the University’s continued inability to make inroads into the problem of campus sexual assault and harassment.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.