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Anthropology Department Removes Urton as Undergrad Studies Director After Sexual Misconduct Allegation

The Tozzer Building on Divinity Avenue houses the Anthropology department.
The Tozzer Building on Divinity Avenue houses the Anthropology department. By Sanjana S. Ramrajvel
By James S. Bikales, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: June 7, 2020, 6:18 p.m.

Harvard’s Anthropology department has removed professor Gary Urton as the Director of Undergraduate Studies in light of allegations that he pressured a former student into unwelcome sex, per an email sent to undergraduate concentrators Tuesday.

“To clarify now that we have information: Gary Urton is no longer DUS. He has been formally removed from that position,” assistant director of undergraduate studies Zoe A. Eddy wrote. In July, Professor Ieva Jusionyte will replace Urton as DUS, the email added.

An investigation by The Crimson published last week found a former student accused Urton of sexual harassment in 2016.

According to an affidavit she filed in federal court, the former Extension School student reported to an FAS sexual harassment officer in 2016 that Urton had pressured her into “unwelcome sex” before writing her a recommendation letter in 2011, though she never filed a formal charge against him.

Eddy wrote that many undergraduates have had direct contact with Urton over the course of their time in the department.

“On the Gary Urton case. I've met with many of you: this hits home. Every single one of you has been impacted by the information that has come out about Gary Urton. He was the Director of Undergraduate Studies and lead this program,” her email reads. “For those of you in Latin American Studies and Archaeology, he is a leading expert in the field, and someone you worked closely with. Many of you were in the field with him.”

The email also addressed a number of steps the undergraduate Anthropology program is taking in response to the sexual misconduct allegations against Urton and Anthropology professors John L. Comaroff and Theodore C. Bestor. The pair will hold an open forum for concentrators on Friday, establish an undergraduate committee, and work with University offices to develop ongoing resources related to sexual misconduct.

Department chair Ajantha Subramanian and interim chair Rowan K. Flad announced Saturday the formation of a standing committee to “work to dismantle” structures that contributed to “an environment in which abuses continue to manifest and go undetected.”

Urton could not immediately be reached for comment.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

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