Harvard University revoked the emeritus faculty privileges of a retired professor and barred him from campus Thursday after an internal investigation found that he engaged in “unwelcome sexual conduct” toward several people over a span of nearly 40 years.
The sanctions Harvard announced against Jorge Domínguez came more than a year after the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that numerous women had accused the longtime government professor of sexual harassment. Several said he had kissed them or touched them inappropriately, or said things that made them uncomfortable, according to the Chronicle report in February 2018.
Harvard placed Domínguez on leave soon afterward and launched an investigation of the allegations under the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX. Domínguez, who joined the faculty in 1972, retired last year.
Harvard announced the results of its Title IX investigation of Domínguez without releasing specifics of the complaints against him. Afterward, university President Lawrence Bacow indicated he will ask external experts for another review.
This one, Bacow wrote in an email to government professor Steven Levitsky, will focus on Harvard itself in light of the Domínguez case. Bacow wrote that the external review will look at whether the university inhibits reports of misconduct and whether it puts up roadblocks to an effective response when reports are made. It also will examine how the university can take alleged misconduct into account when making personnel decisions on promotions.
Levitsky chaired a committee of faculty, students and staff in the government department that looked at how to improve the climate of the department after allegations against Domínguez emerged last year.
“Your diligent and thoughtful work has been much appreciated and also a welcome addition to our ongoing dialogue as we continue to strive for a Harvard that is free of harassment and discrimination,” Bacow wrote to Levitsky.
Domínguez – who has not been charged with any crimes – could not be reached for comment Thursday through a telephone number listed for him or an email to an attorney who represented him last year. The Chronicle last year quoted Domínguez as saying he “sought to behave honorably in all my relationships.”
Harvard’s findings and sanctions represented a second major rebuke for an academic who specializes in Latin America. In 1983, according to the Chronicle, the university had found Domínguez responsible for “serious misconduct” in a case involving a female professor with less seniority who said he made repeated and unwanted sexual advances.
But Domínguez kept his job on Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences after that episode and secured other prominent posts. He was Harvard’s vice provost for international affairs from 2006 to 2015.
Domínguez is the first retired Harvard professor to lose emeritus status in recent memory, according to the university. Emeritus status entitles a retired professor to teach one course a year, maintain a Harvard email address, access university libraries and keep an office on the campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, among other privileges. There are nearly 170 emeritus members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Terry Karl, who filed the complaint that led to Harvard’s 1983 rebuke of Domínguez, said she was impressed by the perseverance and courage of other women who stepped forward to share their experiences with university investigators. Domínguez’s actions, Karl said, had “a huge impact on careers, on psyches, the pain people felt through this.”
Karl left Harvard’s faculty in the 1980s. She is now a professor emerita of political science and Latin American studies at Stanford University.
Karl said she is glad Harvard will seek an external review. “It depends, as everything does, on how it is set up,” Karl said. “How independent it is, what powers it’s given and what expertise it has on the issues of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and assault.”
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