Report Finds Prolonged ‘Institutional Failure’ in Harvard Sexual Misconduct Case

The report recommended the department create a Title IX liaison position and offer more courses on race, identity and gender politics.

Report Finds Prolonged ‘Institutional Failure’ in Harvard Sexual Misconduct Case

A Title IX investigation of Dominguez is currently on-going.

A committee examining how Harvard University and its government department handled sexual harassment allegations against a government professor found the school failed to provide a safe work environment for its affiliates.

The 53-page report outlines the downfalls of the university’s response to the allegations and recommends it launch an independent review of “failures of communication and reporting,” reports The Crimson.

The report comes nearly 14 months after multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Professor Emeritus Jore I. Dominguez resurfaced, saying the university’s response “triggered a crisis” within the department.

The Committee on Climate Change was formed in March 2018, just days after more than 20 women publicly accused Dominguez of sexual misconduct over the last four decades.

A survey published earlier this year by the committee found that 3% of department members reported having experienced harassment, while 9% reported having experienced discrimination.

Terry Karl, a former assistant government professor at Harvard, filed a report against Dominguez after he made numerous sexual advances. She claimed he tried to manipulate her by using his power as department chairmen.

Karl’s time as Harvard was from the late 1970s to early 1980s. By the time of her complaint, Harvard had reprimanded only two other professors for sexual harassment, reports the Chronicle.

Dominguez was found guilty by Harvard of “serious misconduct,” and removed from administrative responsibilities for three years.

Karl, meanwhile, decided to leave Harvard out of fear of what Dominguez might do to her, considering his punishment a “slap on the wrist.”

In 1998, Harvard University senior Nienke Grossman alleged she was inappropriately touched by Dominguez in his office. She discussed the incident with a school counselor, but the complaint never made it further.

Feeling unsupported by the university, Grossman decided to drop Dominguez’s class. She did not pursue a Ph.D. in government like originally planned but went to Harvard Law School and is now a law professor at the University of Baltimore.

“We believe the University and the Government Department failed to uphold a basic commitment: the provision of a safe and productive work environment,” the committee wrote. “That failure directly affected dozens of students, staff and junior faculty.”

Recommendations Made by the Committee

On Wednesday, the committee sent a letter to University President Lawrence S. Bascow and several other administrators advocating for a review of what they called a “prolonged institutional failure,” the report said.

They proposed the university create a “departmental Title IX liaison position,” which would be filled by a senior member of the department to coordinate with the University’s Title IX Office. The position would uphold reporting procedures and other initiatives to ensure the department represents sufficient interest in its affiliates.

They recommended a voluntary in-person bystander training for the entire department each year and an anonymous reporting system for sexual misconduct.

The committee also suggested the university hire professors who specialize in gender politics and race or ethnicity.

“Courses on race, immigration, identity and gender politics are in high demand, yet largely missing from our offerings,” the report said. “Our peer institutions also tend to offer more courses in these areas than we do.”

The report also noted that the department has an “obvious problem” keeping female faculty members on staff long enough to be considered for tenure. In the past 25 years, only two women have gone up for tenure and only one of them was promoted.

In comparison, 14 men went up for tenure and 12 were promoted. The report also questioned how Dominguez was continually promoted with several sexual misconduct complaints against him.

“Just writing down these reforms, putting them on paper, having a press release about them is never enough, said Government Professor Steven R. Levitsky, who chaired the committee. “There needs to be buy-in from the community, and the good news, I think, is that there’s been a lot of engagement from within the Government department community.”

A Title IX investigation of Dominguez is currently on-going. The university is willing to put on an external review of the case but is waiting to see the results of the Title IX investigation first.

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About the Author


Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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