John Harvard's Journal
A Retirement amid Harassment Allegations
Madero professor for the study of Mexico Jorge Domínguez, a member of the department of government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), will retire from his position at the end of the semester. He disclosed that decision in a letter to the chair of the department on March 6, a week after The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 10 women had accused Domínguez of sexual harassment at various times across nearly 40 years. A Chronicle follow-up reported that eight additional accusers had come forward.
FAS dean Michael D. Smith announced on March 4 that Domínguez would be placed on administrative leave indefinitely, “pending a full and fair review of the facts and circumstances regarding allegations that have come to light.” In a subsequent statement, Smith said, “I want to be very clear that Domínguez’s forthcoming retirement does not change the…review that is currently under way.” Thus, he “remains on administrative leave until it is concluded”—and the outcome of the review may affect the rights and privileges normally provided to retired faculty members.
The women accusing Domínguez ranged from undergraduates to faculty members in the government department. In 1983, he had been found guilty of “serious misconduct” and formally disciplined for sexually harassing Terry Karl, then an assistant professor, yet he subsequently served as director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and as the University’s first vice provost for international affairs.
Government graduate students circulated an open letter charging that “Due to years of apparent negligence, the University and government department have burdened female students with impossible choices and unacceptably onerous responsibilities.”
In a message to the University community on March 2, Provost Alan Garber wrote, “Faculty, staff, and students work side by side in settings that vary widely, from 24/7 labs to residential communities. Within this complexity, working conditions and the frequent power asymmetries in working relationships can make it hard for people to know when and how to speak up. And worries that speaking up might have negative repercussions within one’s community or field, in the years to come, can also prevent individuals from making a formal complaint, or speaking at all.” He encouraged prospective complainants to bring issues forward for formal investigation within University processes; many of the women cited in the Chronicle stories had not previously done so.
President Drew Faust, speaking at the March 6 FAS meeting, said, “I want to start by acknowledging the real sense of hurt, disappointment and upset that has been expressed about the situation and about Harvard’s response—articulated by students, faculty, other members of the extended community, and in an editorial in today’s Crimson.…[L]et me repeat what Provost Garber, Dean Smith, and I have emphasized: sexual harassment has no place at Harvard and the community can rightly expect that Harvard will do all that it can to address this serious and enduring problem.”
She continued, “We need to acknowledge the profound influence members of the faculty have over junior faculty and students. Real consequences flow from that reality—the difficult place students and junior faculty find themselves in when a mentor crosses boundaries and the reluctance they understandably experience to come forward when concerns arise. All of us in this room share a responsibility to act in ways that acknowledge this imbalance of power.” A full report appears at harvardmag.com/dominguez-18.