Harvard Professor Placed On Leave After 18 Accusations Of Sexual Harassment

The #MeToo movement has finally made the journey across the Charles River and into the hallowed halls of America's oldest and most prestigious university.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Monday that Harvard has suspended a prominent professor after the Chronicle published a rigorous investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and groping dating back to the late 1970s. The professor's name is Jorge Dominguez. At the time of his suspension, he was a vice provost for international affairs at the school, and  also the Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University.

Dominguez

So far, 18 women have come forward to accuse Dominguez of inappropriate behavior. The women tell similar stories. In a pattern that's no doubt familiar to anybody who's followed the #MeToo movement, Dominguez first presented himself as a mentor to these women, before eventually escalating his behavior to cross borders into sexual harassment territory.

One woman named Rebekah said Dominguez made a pass at her after inviting her for an after-work drink, a meeting that culminated with Dominguez "cupping my ass."

In 2006, Domínguez was named vice provost for international affairs, a wide-ranging position that included promoting the university's research programs abroad as well as meeting with donors and alumni. Rebekah said Domínguez made an effort to show his appreciation for her work. When she applied to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education to pursue a master's degree part-time, he wrote her a glowing recommendation. “If there was a Jorge Domínguez fan club, I would have been president from 2012 to 2015,” Rebekah said.

When she graduated from the master’s program in May of 2015, Domínguez suggested they get a drink after work to celebrate. Over a glass of wine at the Russell House Tavern, in Harvard Square, he told Rebekah that he was worried about her: She’d gained weight, he said, and he thought successful fund raisers should be beautiful and thin. When he noticed she was angry, he apologized profusely and reached in for a hug. "I was trying to pull away and then he cupped my ass," she wrote soon afterward in an online chat with a Harvard colleague.

Many women complained about Dominguez's behavior to his superiors, but few bothered to file formal complaints.

Alice and Kathryn also met with the human-resources department. They answered questions but decided not to make formal complaints. The possible repercussions of alienating a powerful administrator seemed too severe.

Other women who had uncomfortable interactions with Domínguez made that same calculation. One former graduate student, who spoke with The Chronicle on the condition of anonymity, said that after reading about Karl’s case and knowing that Domínguez was still widely celebrated at the university, she decided against reporting his behavior. “There would have been tremendous career repercussions for me,” she said. “I’d be perceived as a troublemaker within the department.”  

That former student also saw Domínguez as an adviser and mentor. He offered to help find an apartment when she first got to Cambridge, and later he helped fund her research. Soon she started noticing that when they hugged he would slip his hand down near her butt. Then, at a reception in February 2008, she says, he slapped her behind in front of other scholars. Mortified, she told a classmate about it that night in an online chat. Two other people she told at the time confirmed her account.

Sexual harassment allegations have roiled industries from media, to entertainment to food service. But the walled-off worlds of prestigious universities have been conspicuously free of major scandals, despite what many believe to be a culture rife with harassment and male-female power imbalances.

The story is yet another example of how purportedly progressive environments are just as rife with sexual misconduct as anywhere else.

The government department, where Dominguez taught, does not have the authority to dismiss him because he is tenured, the Harvard Crimson explained. Only the Harvard Corp. can remove a permanently appointed member of faculty for "grave misconduct or neglect of duty."