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Professor banned from Harvard, stripped of emeritus status after sexual misconduct allegations by Stanford professor, 17 others

Courtesy of Terry Karl

Thirty-six years after Stanford professor emerita Terry Karl ’70 M.A. ’76 Ph.D. ’82 accused him of sexual misconduct, retired Harvard political science professor Jorge Dominguez has been banned from Harvard’s campus and stripped of his emeritus status.

The decision was announced Thursday, after the school’s yearlong Title IX investigation found Dominguez engaged in “unwelcome sexual conduct” targeting Karl and other students and faculty over a span of four decades.

Dominguez retired on March 6, 2018 after a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education publicized details of allegations from Karl and others. Harvard placed Dominguez on administrative leave on March 4, 2018, by which point 18 women had come forward with allegations of misconduct, The Harvard Crimson reported.

Despite the measures announced on Thursday, including an external investigation into Harvard’s handling of the allegations over time, Karl maintains that Harvard’s action has been inadequate. In an email to The Daily, she wrote that “those who have been seriously affected should ask what remedies [Harvard] should take on their/our behalf.”

“There should be some sort of financial penalty as well, at least removing the rewards of advancement that permitted [Dominguez] to harass so many more women,” Karl wrote. “Nonetheless, I am very glad that his power as a serial predator has been curbed.”

Karl, who was an assistant professor in government at Harvard when she accused Dominguez of sexual harassment in 1983, has expressed frustration with how Harvard carried out its investigations both now and then.

“I never felt supported by Harvard,” Karl wrote. “Not for a moment, then or even now. In 1983, after finding that Dominguez was ‘wholly responsible’ for sexual harassment, Harvard’s top dean asked me where I would like to go for my new job — and he told me he could get me ‘a good position at Yale.’”

Though Dominguez was disciplined in 1983, he was only suspended from administrative duties for three years, retaining his position among the Harvard faculty and continuing to engage in misconduct, all while moving up to higher levels of the University’s bureaucracy.

As Dominguez continued to climb upward, Karl wrote, those who challenged him were silenced. Half of the female graduate students subjected to Dominguez’s misconduct left Harvard, she wrote. Of the male graduate students who opposed him, she added, some lost fellowships and other academic opportunities.

“Undergraduates were told that if they talked about this, they would be kicked out of the department,” she wrote.

Specific findings of the Title IX investigation, such as details of Dominguez’s conduct and the response of Harvard staff members, have not been made available by Harvard.

“I put a graduate student on a plane home to her parents in the midst of a nervous breakdown,” Karl wrote. “Harvard had to change the grades of the undergraduates [Dominguez] retaliated against by getting neutral readers (who raised them substantially). And the Government Department wonders why, of the 14 people who got tenure, only 2 were women.”

A student committee from Harvard’s Department of Government found through its own review that a “prolonged institutional failure” allowed Dominguez to rise through the ranks at Harvard, despite ongoing misconduct. A 53-page report released by the committee on May 1 called upon Harvard to bring in outside experts for an external review of the school’s response to repeated complaints against Dominguez, who was hired by the school in 1972.

“I think it is simply astonishing that it took almost 40 years and 20-something complaints to stop a serial predator, whose name was already public and who had been found responsible for egregious behavior before,” Karl wrote. “And all of this effort for an external revenue that should have been offered the moment the Chronicle of Higher Education published this story.”

On the heels of this report and the findings of the Title IX investigation, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow sent an email to the committee on Thursday in which he agreed to conduct an external review to examine whether “procedures, practices, and norms” have hindered Harvard’s ability to ensure a safe work environment for all. The makeup of the committee remains unclear.

“I am appalled by the report’s findings and heartbroken for those who had to endure the behaviors described,” wrote Claudine Gay, Harvard’s dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in a separate Thursday email to the Harvard community. “Subjecting anyone in our community to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature is unacceptable.”

The student committee has also called for Harvard to hire more female professors and establish an anonymous reporting system for harassment, according to The New York Times.

Many of the students who have made allegations about Dominguez were graduate students who studied under him, and the Harvard graduate students union has requested a “third-party, neutral grievance process” to facilitate reports of sexual harassment. In the student committee’s report, Dominguez’s behavior was referred to as “an open secret.”

“Sexual harassment is at every major University, and Stanford is no exception,” Karl wrote. “I doubt you could find many female faculty cohorts of my generation at Stanford who have not had serious issues regarding either gender or race discrimination.”

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Holden Foreman

Holden Foreman

Holden Foreman '21 is a Desk Editor for the News section. He hails from the city of St. Louis, Missouri and is studying electrical engineering, computer science and economics. Contact him at hs4man21 'at' stanford.edu.