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Former Professor Suing University Granted Tenure At Tufts

Former Associate Professor of Anthropology Kimberly Theidon.
Former Associate Professor of Anthropology Kimberly Theidon. By Courtesy of Kimberly Theidon
By Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writer

Kimberly Theidon, a former Harvard professor who  in March filed a lawsuit against Harvard for denying her tenure, has received tenure at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of International Affairs and will begin teaching there in the fall. Her appointment begins July 1.

Theidon, who was an associate anthropology professor at Harvard, will teach courses about human security at the Tufts graduate school as their Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies when she begins teaching in September. For the past year, she has held the position of associate research professor at the Fletcher School, also serving as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

Kimberly Theidon.
Kimberly Theidon. By Courtesy of Kimberly Theidon

In early March, Theidon filed a lawsuit against Harvard in federal court, alleging that the school’s decision to deny her tenure violated the federal anti-sex discrimination law Title IX. Prior to taking her case to federal court, Theidon filed a similar complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination roughly a year ago, alleging that she was denied tenure for advocating for victims of sexual assault, in part taking place on the comments section of a Crimson article.

According to Tufts spokesperson Taraneh Pettinato, Theidon applied for the tenure position at Tufts during the school’s spring 2014 search. Her appointment was announced March 23.

“She was the best of a brilliant group of scholars and teachers who applied for a tenured position here focused on human security,” James Stavridis, Dean of Tufts’s Fletcher School, wrote in an email.

At the same time that she was undergoing tenure review at Tufts, Theidon was in the beginning of her legal proceedings against Harvard. In March 2014, Theidon filed the complaint with MCAD, which her lawyer Philip J. Gordon said in a September interview was a procedural requirement necessary to move forward with a lawsuit.

In the subsequent lawsuit filed in March of this year, Theidon specified a number of concerns regarding how her gender allegedly affected her ultimate tenure decision, claiming that she was held to a higher standard than male peers and received “less pay and work space than those accorded to males who had less experience or productivity.”

Further, the lawsuit highlights Theidon’s response to a March 2013 Crimson article about sexual harassment at Harvard. In her comments on the story, Theidon offered a defense of the anonymous sexual assault victims who were quoted in the story.

“I am filing this lawsuit in the hope I embolden others to step forward,” Theidon wrote in an email. “As faculty, we should be our students' best allies in making our campuses safer and more equitable learning environments.”

In a statement, University spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven wrote that Theidon’s “central claims that inappropriate judgments affected her tenure decision continue to be flatly wrong.”

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

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