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Anthropology Prof. Urton Stripped of Emeritus Status, Barred From Campus Following Sexual Misconduct Investigation

The Crimson published an investigation in June 2020 that found three Anthropology professors, including Urton, faced allegations of sexual harassment.
The Crimson published an investigation in June 2020 that found three Anthropology professors, including Urton, faced allegations of sexual harassment. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Andy Z. Wang, Crimson Staff Writer

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay stripped former Anthropology professor Gary Urton of his emeritus status and barred him from campus following an investigation that confirmed he violated sexual misconduct policies, she wrote in an email to Anthropology department affiliates Thursday.

Under the terms of the sanctions, Urton has been stripped of his professor emeritus status, barring him from teaching or advising any students. Urton will also be banned from holding a Harvard email address, accessing Harvard office spaces, or using Harvard administrative resources.

The Crimson published an investigation in June 2020 that found three Anthropology professors, including Urton, faced allegations of sexual harassment. A former student alleged Urton pressured her into “unwelcome sex” in 2011 before writing her a recommendation letter.

Shortly after, two more former students came forward: Carrie J. Brezine said she faced “years of sexual coercion and emotional abuse” by Urton between 2003 and 2007, and Jade d’Alpoim Guedes shared emails showing Urton invited her to a hotel room while she was a graduate student in 2012.

Within a week, Gay placed Urton on administrative leave. In announcing his leave, Gay wrote that she had also heard from others who alleged that Urton had sexually harrassed them.

Urton announced that he would retire shortly thereafter.

Gay wrote Thursday that Harvard’s Office for Dispute Resolution — which investigates formal Title IX complaints — had determined that Urton “engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct and abused power with individuals over whom he had professional responsibility.”

“The ODR review documented behavior that was in violation of FAS policies on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and unprofessional conduct,” Gay wrote in the email. “In short, Dr. Urton exhibited a pattern of behavior that betrayed the trust of our community and violated our fundamental institutional values.”

Urton also “provided materially misleading information” to the ODR throughout the course of the investigation into the allegations against him, according to Gay.

Gay wrote that Urton will not be permitted to access any spaces affiliated with Harvard, whether on the FAS campus or not.

“Dr. Urton is no longer welcome on any part of the FAS campus or to attend any FAS-sponsored events held off campus,” she wrote. “In addition, the President has agreed to place the same sanction on the entire Harvard campus and on all Harvard-sponsored events.”

Last August, ODR determined from its investigation that Urton had abused his position as a teacher and made a sexual advance towards a student by soliciting Guedes to join him in the hotel room in 2012.

The responsibility to review ODR’s findings and impose sanctions falls on the school of the respondent of the investigation. As such, Gay was tasked with determining appropriate sanctions. Notably, Gay proceeded with similar sanctions in the case of Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, also announcing them publicly in that case.

FAS Dean Claudine Gay issued similar sanctions in the case of Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, also announcing them publicly in that case.
FAS Dean Claudine Gay issued similar sanctions in the case of Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez, also announcing them publicly in that case. By Jocelyn Wang

In an emailed statement Thursday, Urton contested the validity of the sanctions imposed against him.

“I am deeply disappointed and devastated by the Dean’s pronouncement of sanctions against me,” he wrote. “I participated in good faith in the university’s Title IX grievance procedures and investigative process. I was scrupulously honest and forthright in all my interactions with the Office of Dispute Resolution.”

“For many reasons, I do not feel the sanctions against me are fair or just, nor do I believe they accurately reflect the evidence gathered during the Title IX proceeding,” he added.

Gay placed one of the other Anthropology professors accused of sexual harassment, John L. Comaroff, on administrative leave last August in order to review “public reports of allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation” against Comaroff, a world-renowned scholar of African civilizations. No outcome of that review has been publicly announced, and Comaroff remains listed in Harvard’s internal directory.

In closing out her email, Gay reiterated the University’s commitment to creating a safe and inclusive space for all.

“The sanctions described above are proportionate to the severity of the behavior observed and seek to uphold and further our shared community standards and the safe, fair, and respectful environment necessary to promote academic excellence,” Gay wrote.

—Staff writer Andy Z. Wang can be reached at andy.wang@thecrimson.com.

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