Harvard professor accused of misconduct to retire
Jorge Dominguez, the well-known Harvard University government professor accused of sexual misconduct spanning more than three decades, announced his sudden retirement on Tuesday.
But undergraduates, graduates, and alumni of the university’s government department vowed to keep the pressure on Harvard, demanding that the university apologize for its handling of this case and ensure that its future practices protect students from sexual harassment.
“This is only the beginning,” said Elena Sokoloski, 20, a senior at Harvard who started the #DominguezMustGo social media drive and is one of several dozen students in the government department who have mobilized around this case in recent days. “The problem neither starts nor stops with Dominguez, and we need to use this moment to address the deep structural issues of which this case is one symptom. That process must begin immediately.”
At a faculty meeting Tuesday, Harvard president Drew Faust noted what a difficult period it has been for the university. “I want to start by acknowledging the real sense of hurt, disappointment, and upset that has been expressed about the situation about Harvard’s response,” she said in prepared remarks. “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.”
Students said they were angry that even after women brought complaints about Dominguez’s behavior to university administrators, some formally and many informally, the professor continued to climb the ranks at Harvard and was eventually named the vice provost of international affairs.
On Wednesday, in a statement announcing his retirement at the end of this semester, Dominguez said he is not teaching any classes and has stepped down immediately from his administrative roles. He did not address any of the sexual misconduct allegations and declined to comment through his attorney.
The university had placed Dominguez on administrative leave Sunday night, following reports that detailed the allegations of sexual misconduct against the government professor and Cuba expert. According to articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education, several women said Dominguez touched them inappropriately, grabbing their knees, pressing his crotch into them, and touching their buttocks when he hugged them. In the 1980s, a junior faculty member and a graduate student formally complained about Dominguez’s behavior. The faculty member complained that Dominguez had attempted to kiss her on multiple occasions, along with other inappropriate behavior.
Harvard disciplined Dominguez in 1983, including a temporary suspension of his administrative duties, according to the Chronicle.
Dominguez, though, went on to become vice provost, had a dissertation prize set up in his honor in Harvard’s Latin American studies center, and conducted much of a one-day training for graduate students who were about to start teaching.
Complaints about inappropriate behavior on his part continued too. According to the Chronicle, 18 graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff members have come forward with allegations against Dominguez from between 1979 to 2015. Among them are three staff members who said they brought their concerns to the university’s human resources department but did not file formal complaints for fear of alienating Dominguez, who was then a high-powered administrator, according to the Chronicle.
Terry Karl, whose complaints against Dominguez led to Harvard disciplining him in 1983 for “serious misconduct” for sexually harassing her, said the university should conduct an independent investigation and provide a full explanation about why little was done to curb the inappropriate behavior in the decades after her case.
Karl, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, said she spent the early years of her career filing complaints about Dominguez to Harvard and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the hopes of preventing other women from going through similar struggles.
When she heard Dominguez’s alleged behavior continued, “I felt like somebody had slugged me in the stomach,” she said. “Harvard knew or should have known about his actions over more than three decades.”
On Tuesday, Harvard graduate students sent a letter to the government department faculty demanding changes including in-person sexual harassment training, an outside review of the department, and greater transparency about professors who have been found guilty of misconduct and the university’s punishment.
Graduate students said they have been working informally within the government department for nearly a decade to improve the environment for women, to ensure they have access to more professional training and networking opportunities, and to change how workshops are conducted to encourage more female participation.
But some students said they have been frustrated by the slow progress and the gaps exposed by how Harvard handled the Dominguez case.
Students said they plan to send a similar letter asking for changes to Harvard’s administration later this week.
Harvard administrators said despite Dominguez’s retirement, the university would continue a review of his case.
“I want to be very clear that Dominguez’s forthcoming retirement does not change the full and fair process of review that is currently underway,” said Michael D. Smith, the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard.
Still, Dominguez shouldn’t be able to stay on Harvard’s payroll for the next few months, said Nienke Grossman, who alleges that Dominguez touched her on her arm and back and grabbed her thigh during a meeting with him in 1998 while she was a student.
Grossman, now a law professor at the University of Baltimore, said she told a sexual-harassment counselor at Harvard at the time about the incident without naming Dominguez, and was informed that she had to write a letter with her name on it to be placed in his file.
At the time, she was under the impression that Harvard had done little to punish Dominguez for his past behavior and didn’t think the university would take action in her case. Instead, she dropped his class and pursued law instead of political science.
“He will continue to receive his full salary and benefits for five more months,” Grossman said. “I have serious concerns about what signal his continued employment sends to the Harvard community.”