Harvard University did little to address multiple allegations of sexual harassment against a powerful professor over four decades - and instead promoted him to a top administrative post, an external review found this week.
Professor Jorge Dominguez, who worked in the Ivy League school's Latin American Studies department before being appointed vice provost, is believed to have harassed at least 18 women dating back to 1979, when a woman first reported him.
fter a year of investigation, an external panel published a 26-page report on Thursday that said the college has a 'permissive' culture when it comes to sexual harassment.
The report attributed the lack of action over the years to a 'high-ranking power' imbalance, senior staff 'protecting' each other, the demotion of junior staff who complained as 'trouble-makers' and a chronic lack of female faculty and students.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow also apologized to Stanford Professor Terry Karl, 73, who was allegedly assaulted by the now 76-year-old Professor Jorge Dominguez in 1983 when she was an assistant professor at Harvard. She said the assault included kissing, groping and once Dominguez saying, 'This would be a nice place for a rape'.
Karl had reported Dominguez to Harvard at the time, and the school found her allegations to be 'factually accurate,' according to the recent report. A 'letter was placed in his file' and he was relieved of administrative duties for three years and forbidden, the school says, from participating in any of Karl's future promotions.
He took a leave of absence in 1984 when 'news spread' of the unpublicized sanctions, but returned to his position in 1985. Harvard said its secrecy was compliant with policy at the time.
Karl later left for Stanford University, citing concerns of working alongside him.
Bacow said: 'Harvard failed her. She deserved better.'
In the report from Thursday, multiple current and former students and staff said Dominguez's behavior was an 'open secret', with women frequently warned not to be alone with him.
But the report also found Dominguez was far from alone - with multiple reports made against other, unnamed male faculty members over the years, also not acted upon.
Terry Karl, 73, now a professor at Stanford, left Harvard after Dominguez sexually assaulted her in 1983 but the university continued to promote him. At least 18 women claim he asexually harassed or assaulted them since 1979.
Dominguez stepped down in 2018 after The Chronicle of Higher Education published multiple exposes on the allegations, that caused a total of 18 women to come forward, including Karl.
In May 2019 an investigation under Title IX the federal law outlawing sex discrimination in education found Dominguez 'engaged in unwelcome sexual conduct toward several individuals, on multiple occasions over a period spanning nearly four decades.'
He was later stripped by Harvard of his title of professor emeritus and banned from campus.
That same month, DailyMail.com found Dominguez at a home in New Hampshire, but he refused to come to the door, sending his wife instead.
'I'm going to say he doesn't wish to speak,' Dominguez's wife, Mary, said in 2019. 'No comment is all you are going to get.'
The external panel was appointed by Harvard in September 2019 to investigate why victims did not come forward, why staff did not address the claims and what could be done to protect staff and students in the future. Susan Hockfield, former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), chaired the panel into Harvard's culture of sexual harassment that published its findings this week +11
Susan Hockfield, former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), chaired the panel into Harvard's culture of sexual harassment that published its findings this week
The committee, headed by former MIT President Susan Hockfield, recommended close to a dozen changes for Harvard, including greater transparency when faculty are sanctioned for sexual harassment, centralizing personnel records, strengthening the vetting process for promotions, improving the faculty gender balance, and monitoring employees with past violations.
'Cultures that are permissive of sexual harassment are characterized by members feeling that it would be too risky to report their experience of sexual harassment, that their complaint would not be taken seriously, and that no corrective action would be taken in response to their complaint,' according to the report.
Over more than a year the panel interviewed four of the women who came forward to the Chronicle, as well as multiple current and former students, staff, faculty, administrators. They also combed the university's archives.
The panel found that: 'Dominguezs harassment was a matter of common knowledge among some members of the Government Department. However, many who suffered from or knew of Dominguezs misconduct did not report it.'
The report highlighted that 'the pronounced power hierarchy' at Harvard stopped many women coming forward with allegations against the 'powerful administrator' Dominguez and other accused staff, as well as senior staff closing ranks and being 'highly collegial among themselves and protective of each other'.
It said: 'The close ties among the senior faculty left studentsand even junior facultyfeeling uncertain of their status and rights. In this culture, junior members feared their careers could be derailed or destroyed if they triggered the displeasure of a senior member. Even in the absence of direct retaliation, students worried about being branded as 'troublemakers' by powerful members of the community.'
The panel said one individual did not report Dominguez's harassment for fear that her mentor, who was untenured, would lose his job.
Another student described a departmental forum [in 2018] at which a senior faculty member began the proceedings by describing Dominguez as a 'friend', which inhibited students from speaking openly about him. Former Harvard vice provost Jorge Dominguez, pictured in 1993, was found to have sexually harassed and assaulted at least 18 women since 1979, but was promoted to high-ranking jobs anyway.
The allegations started in 1983 when former assistant professor at Harvard Terry Kay made a formal complaint against Dominguez who she claimed kissed her, and put his hand up her skirt, telling her he was going to be the next head of department and he would be the one who would decide her future advancement.
It wasn't Karl's only example. She said: 'He always touched me. He repeatedly tried to kiss me. All this was found to be true by Harvard. He was found responsible but still they gave him higher positions.'
Another night they were walking on campus when he turned to her and allegedly said: 'This would be a nice place for a rape.'
'It was totally creepy', she said. 'Any time I exerted my own judgment he threatened me.'
But although Dominguez was initially reprimanded, he soon returned and began to 'rebuild his career', the report found. He turned to me with this strange look in his eyes and said,'This would be a nice place for a rape.'
Karl, on the other hand, departed for Stanford shortly after the Dominguez returned to campus in the mid 1980s, citing the difficulty of carrying on working with him.
Over four decades, even while women on three occasions reported inappropriate behavior by Dominguez, no action was taken against him, the panel said.
Despite these allegations, and many more unreported ones, Dominguez was promoted, pointing to significant problems in Harvards culture and shortcomings in its sexual harassment reporting procedures, the report said.
But after the 2018 investigation in The Chronicle was published, even more women came forward - eventually with a total of 18 women having made claims that Dominguez harassed them over the past 40 years.
Cleveland lawyer Charna Sherman, 64, said she reported the professor in 1979, when 'he got up from his desk, came across the room and kissed me full on the lips'.
University of Baltimore law professor Nienke Grossman, 44, said she was a senior in 1998 when Dominguez allegedly touched her, first on her back and arm, eventually grabbing her thigh. Karl, 73, was a new member of faculty at Harvard in 1981. Dominguez was her superior and he soon made her realize who was in charge +11
'He always touched me. He repeatedly tried to kiss me. All this was found to be true by Harvard. He was found responsible but still they gave him higher positions'
Karl told The Boston Globe she hasnt had a chance to read the entire report, but appreciates the apology, which comes about 40 years after the harassment began.
'Apologies mean such a great deal when an institution, a university department, and a predator try to take away your dignity and your future,' Karl said.
But most women who are sexually harassed dont get apologies from their institutions, she said.
Sophie Hill, a fifth-year doctoral student in Harvards government department who pushed the university to conduct an outside review including inviting Professor Karl to campus in February 2020 to talk about the allegations, said the results show the extent of the problem at the university.
'Its such a case study of how many people looking the other way can accumulate to this gross injustice,' Hill said. 'Its not about Dominguez but the frailty of our institutions.'
Meanwhile, according to the Globe, Harvard has several open investigations into sexual harassment by faculty.