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Harvard Gov Dept Climate Committee Finds ‘Prolonged Institutional Failure’ in Final Report

The Center for Government and International Studies houses the Government department, including many of its professors' offices.
The Center for Government and International Studies houses the Government department, including many of its professors' offices. By Delano R. Franklin
By Jonah S. Berger and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

Nearly 14 months after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Government Professor Emeritus Jorge I. Dominguez resurfaced, the Government committee responsible for scrutinizing departmental culture released a final report concluding it failed to provide a safe work environment for its affiliates.

The committee’s 53-page report, sent to department affiliates Wednesday, calls on the University to approve more faculty hiring and to launch an independent review of “failures of communication and reporting” that facilitated Dominguez’s abuse. The committee found that both the department’s and the University’s responses to Dominguez over the past few decades “triggered a crisis” within the department.

“We believe the University and the Government Department failed to uphold a basic commitment: the provision of a safe and productive work environment,” the committee wrote. “That failure directly affected dozens of students, staff, and junior faculty.”

The department formed the Committee on Climate Change in March 2018, days after more than 20 women publicly accused Dominguez of incidents of sexual misconduct spanning four decades. The University opened a Title IX investigation into Dominguez’s conduct in April 2018.

The committee reiterated their calls for an external review, which they first recommended to administrators in October 2018. On Wednesday, the committee sent a letter to University President Lawrence S. Bacow, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay, several other administrators, and a University attorney advocating for a review of what they called a “prolonged institutional failure,” according to the report.

The report stipulates that the committee seeks a “forward-looking” external review of University-wide procedures and any institutional deterrents to reporting misconduct. It specifically asks that the investigation consider how Dominguez continued to receive promotions even after people reported him to “various actors” across the University.

Bacow wrote in a letter to graduate students in March that the University will not initiate an external review until it completes its internal investigation.

Government Professor Steven R. Levitsky, who chaired the committee, said Wednesday that the committee has not received any indication from administrators that the Title IX probe has concluded. University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on the status of the investigation and the committee’s letter to Bacow.

The committee also recommended in the report that the department ask Gay for authorization to conduct two faculty searches. The department would specifically seek out one new hire who specializes in gender politics and another whose focus is in the field of race and ethnicity.

“Courses on race, immigration, identity, and gender politics are in high demand, yet largely missing from our offerings,” the report states. “Our peer institutions also tend to offer more courses in these areas than we do.”

Among the committee’s 18 other recommendations are several improvements to reporting procedures and initiatives to ensure the department represents the interests of all of its affiliates.

One such recommendation is the creation of a standing committee comprising departmental faculty, staff, and students focused on “equity, diversity, and inclusion,” tasked with developing “recruitment and retention strategies” for underrepresented minorities.

The committee proposed creating a “departmental Title IX liaison position” filled by a senior member of the department to coordinate with the University’s Title IX Office as it launches an anonymous reporting system for sexual misconduct that will be rolled out in July 2019. They also called for a voluntary in-person bystander training for the entire department each year.

The report also notes the department has an “obvious problem” in retaining female faculty members long enough to be considered for tenure. In the past 25 years, only two women have gone up for tenure in the department, and just one of them was promoted. In contrast, 14 men went up for tenure, and 12 were promoted.

Levitsky noted that the policies outlined in the report are only recommendations and that the department’s faculty have not yet voted to approve them. And even if that occurs, he cautioned that entrenched institutions do not change “overnight.”

“Just writing down reforms, putting them on paper, having a press release about them is never enough,” he said. “There needs to be buy-in from the community, and the good news, I think, is that there’s been a lot of engagement from within the Government department community, again, from senior faculty on down to undergraduates.”

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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