Harvard professor facing decades of sex harassment charges retires

A once-distinguished Harvard University professor has announced his retirement amid a slew of sexual harassment claims being leveled at him, with some charges dating back more than 30 years. 

Jorge Domínguez, a professor for the Study of Mexico and the chair of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, announced his retirement Tuesday after being placed on leave over the weekend following a story in The Chronicle of Higher Education reporting at least 10 women accused him of harassment.

“I am retiring from my job at Harvard at the end of this semester. It has been a privilege to serve the University,” Domínguez wrote in a note to the chair of his department. “I am not teaching this semester. I have stepped down immediately from my role at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and my other very few remaining academic coordinating roles. You may inform others as you deem best.”

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The article in the Chronicle of Higher Education lists numerous instances of unwanted sexual advances Domínguez made to colleagues and students dating back to at least 1981. The women interviewed by the Chronicle claimed Domínguez touched them inappropriately, and made them feel uncomfortable. 

One accuser, Terry Karl, was an assistant professor of government in 1981 when Domínguez allegedly tried to kiss her. In an email to the Washington Post, Karl called Domínguez's retirement "unacceptable."

"After more than three decades of harassment, the university must carry out a full, fair and transparent investigation of this professor’s conduct, and there must be clear and visible consequences," she wrote. "Harvard also owes a transparent explanation for his continued promotion to positions of greater power when the university knew or should have known that his conduct was an abuse of power. This conduct created a hostile environment for decades, affecting women subject to his authority. What is the explanation?”

The harassment of Karl allegedly went on for two years – with Domínguez reportedly ignoring verbal and written pleas to stop – before Karl filed a complaint. Domínguez was found guilty by the university of “serious misconduct," and was removed from administrative duties for three years. He was also warned any future misconduct could trigger his dismissal.

Michael Smith, dean of the school’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement the review process into the claims against Domínguez will continue, and the terms of his retirement will be decided after the process is complete.

“I want to be very clear that Domínguez’s forthcoming retirement does not change the full and fair process of review that is currently underway,” Smith said in a statement provided to Harvard Magazine. “He remains on administrative leave until it is concluded.” The rights and privileges normally to provided retired faculty members would take into account the outcome of this review.

In a message sent to Fox News on Monday, Smith wrote the “FAS will not tolerate sexual harassment.”

“I write to announce that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has placed Jorge Domínguez on administrative leave, pending a full and fair review of the facts and circumstances regarding allegations that have come to light,” Smith wrote in the email, according to the Harvard Crimson. “We will use every means at our disposal to ensure that we create a safe and healthy community in which people can thrive.”

Leon Kesten, a lawyer representing Domínguez, told Fox News they have no comment at this time.

Speaking to the Harvard Crimson, Elena Sokoloski, a student who started the social media campaign “#DominguezMustGo,” said she was happy Domínguez was placed on leave, because it shows the university is taking the matter seriously.

“This problem isn't just about Dominguez, it's about department-wide culture that allowed this to happen for 40 years,” Sokoloski said. “It's time to get down to work and begin taking steps to make sure this sort of climate is changed, this climate where women don't feel safe coming forward about sexual harassment.”