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External Review Finds Power Disparities, ‘Inadequate Reporting Mechanisms’ Enabled Decades of Domínguez Harassment

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An external committee reviewing sexual harassment at Harvard found “pronounced power disparities” and “inadequate reporting mechanisms” at the University allowed decades of sexual harassment by former Government professor Jorge I. Domínguez to persist, according to its final report released Thursday.

The external review — commissioned in 2019 by University President Lawrence S. Bacow to investigate the circumstances that allowed Domínguez to sexually harass multiple women over four decades — found that the Government Department failed to take action “on known sexual harassment” and that the University did not adequately “monitor employees with past infractions.”

The report found that Domínguez’s harassment of women was “common knowledge” in the Government department and that Harvard insufficiently censured Domínguez, which enabled his misconduct to persist for decades.

Allegations that Domínguez sexually harassed at least 18 women from 1979 to 2015 surfaced in reports published by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2018. Several days after the accusations were reported, Domínguez announced his retirement; Gay stripped him of his emeritus status and barred him from the FAS campus after a yearlong investigation.

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“According to several sources, long before the Chronicle story broke, Domínguez’s harassment was a matter of common knowledge among some members of the Government Department,” the report states. “The Committee also found that the University’s failure to publicize the sanctions against Domínguez in 1983 led to underreporting of his subsequent misconduct.”

The report also posited that faculty gender imbalances in the Government Department contributed to underreporting of misconduct.

The report set forth nine recommendations split across three categories: encouraging reports of misconduct, ensuring more effective responses when misconduct is reported, and vetting candidates for leadership positions. The tenth recommendation — creating an anti-harassment culture — is meant to cut across all the categories.

Bacow wrote in an email to Harvard affiliates accompanying the report that the University accepted the recommendations and has asked the Title IX office to “accelerate” existing plans so that they are implemented.

In his email, Bacow apologized to former Government assistant professor Terry L. Karl, who filed the initial complaint against Domínguez, and all subsequent affiliates who faced instances of sexual harassment which “might have been avoided if Harvard had taken timely and appropriate actions.”

“Harvard failed her. She deserved better, and she and others suffered greatly as a result,” Bacow wrote.

“I deeply regret that she—and so many other members of our community—were made to feel that we turned our backs on them,” Bacow added. “Everyone deserves a fair process, and no one should ever again have to go to the same lengths to be heard.”

Deputy Provost Peggy Newell said in an interview with the Harvard Gazette that the University Title IX office is already working to incorporate the specific recommendations provided by the committee. She said the office is planning on creating an online “Gender Equity Data Hub” to provide more transparent information on disclosures, formal complaints, and outcomes.

President Emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Susan Hockfield chaired the external committee, which also included New York University law professor Kenji Yoshino ’91 and University of Connecticut professor Vicki J. Magley.

This is a developing story. Check thecrimson.com for updates.

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at jasper.goodman@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at kelsey.griffin@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.

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