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Design School Professor Sues Harvard for Failure to Address Discrimination Allegations

The Harvard Graduate School of Design is located in Gund Hall along Quincy St. Bing Wang, an associate professor of real estate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, filed a lawsuit against Harvard on Friday.
The Harvard Graduate School of Design is located in Gund Hall along Quincy St. Bing Wang, an associate professor of real estate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, filed a lawsuit against Harvard on Friday. By Frank S. Zhou
By Frank S. Zhou, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Graduate School of Design associate professor Bing Wang filed a lawsuit against the University on Friday alleging that Harvard administrators failed to act on years of race- and gender-based discrimination complaints against GSD professor Jerold S. Kayden.

The employment discrimination suit filed in Middlesex Superior Court alleges that Kayden — the founding director of the GSD’s Master in Real Estate Program — has “systematically belittled, bullied, and discriminated against Dr. Wang” for more than a decade, and that the University, Kayden, and Harvard Graduate School of Design Dean Sarah Whiting allegedly “retaliated against” Wang after she raised discrimination complaints.

In September 2023, Whiting and GSD administrators denied Wang a review that would allow her to continue teaching at the University past the expiration of her contract in June 2025, according to the complaint.

Wang is seeking a court order to require that she be “reviewed and considered for a promotion to Professor in Practice” and at least $1.1 million in damages, according to court filings.

Kayden did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Through a spokesperson, Whiting and the University declined to comment, citing a policy against commenting on ongoing litigation.

Wang’s complaint alleges that Kayden displayed disrespectful behavior towards Wang as early as 2008, when she was a lecturer in Urban Planning and Design.

In a meeting about renewing Wang’s position that year, “Professor Kayden leaned back in his chair with his feet crossed on his desk throughout the entire meeting,” according to the suit. “His posture was disrespectful and dismissive of Dr. Wang.”

The suit also claims that Kayden sought repeatedly to oppose Wang’s promotion to Associate Professor of the Practice in 2012. Kayden allegedly asked GSD administration to conduct a student survey on her promotion, a move the Faculty Affairs Office found to be “discriminatory against Dr. Wang as an Asian woman, given that it had never been used for other faculty appointments,” the suit reads.

In an email to The Crimson on Monday, Assistant Dean of Faculty Affairs and Title IX coordinator Pamela H. Baldwin disputed the account in Wang’s complaint.

“In 2012 the GSD did not have a faculty affairs office,” Baldwin wrote. “At that time, there was a director of faculty planning who reported to the executive dean.”

Other complaints against Kayden include his “interfering with” the timing and naming of Wang’s courses, omitting Wang’s name in discussing her courses with faculty, and an “illogical and discriminatory desire” to eliminate one of Wang’s courses on real estate in China, per the lawsuit.

“Professor Kayden inexplicably told Dr. Wang that he intended to discontinue the course because he did not think that anyone ‘would be interested in China or [your] course,’” the suit reads. The course ultimately remained on the GSD course catalog for fall 2023.

In addition to complaints against Kayden, the lawsuit alleges that GSD administrators “took no steps to address, correct, or investigate” Wang’s repeated claims of discrimination.

At a September 2023 meeting in which Wang detailed her complaints of discrimination, Whiting allegedly “question[ed] how Professor Kayden could discriminate against Dr. Wang as an Asian woman when he worked well with another Asian female faculty member,” according to court filings.

Wang alleges that Baldwin was “openly dismissive” towards her concerns in a meeting the next day, claiming that Baldwin told her “Professor Kayden was in a ‘very important and respectable position.’”

Baldwin did not address the September 2023 exchange in a Monday email to The Crimson.

In October 2023, Wang sent a letter to Whiting formally requesting a review and outlining her complaints of racial discrimination, according to a court filing.

Kayden allegedly confronted Wang about the request the next morning.

“‘You barked up the wrong tree,’” Kayden said, according to the court filing. “‘If you continue doing this to me, I will go after you. I don’t want that to happen to you, Bing.’”

Wang’s lawsuit comes six years after GSD affiliates circulated a spreadsheet titled “Shitty Architecture Men,” which detailed anonymous allegations of racial discrimination and sexual misconduct against more than a dozen GSD affiliates. The list included former Design School Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, who stepped down in May 2019.

Following the spreadsheet’s circulation, students hung banners across the school denouncing inappropriate sexual and racist acts and more than 35 female faculty members signed onto a statement supporting the student activism. The GSD announced a series of personnel and policy changes to promote diversity in Oct. 2019.

An August 2019 version of the “Shitty Architecture Men” spreadsheet viewed by The Crimson does not list Kayden in an archived list.

—Staff writer Frank S. Zhou can be reached at frank.zhou@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @frank_s_zhou or on Threads @frank_s_zhou.

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Graduate School of DesignUniversityProfessional MisconductLawsuits