15 Harvard Anthropology Professors Ask Comaroff to Resign Over Sexual Harassment Allegations | News
On Sunday, more than three-quarters of tenured anthropology professors at Harvard called on Professor John L. Comaroff to resign over allegations of sexual harassment.
In a three-sentence letter sent to Comaroff on Sunday evening, 15 anthropology professors – including the department head – wrote that they had “lost confidence” in him as a professor.
The letter comes amid growing furor over sexual harassment allegations against Comaroff, who was placed on unpaid leave by Harvard last month.
“We have lost faith in your ability to be a teacher, mentor, colleague and productive member of our department,” the letter reads. “We believe your continued presence undermines our viability as a unit and hinders our efforts to build a safer, responsive and responsible community.”
Comaroff denies the allegations of misconduct.
“I am deeply distressed that my colleagues have taken this position in the face of Harvard’s own findings and process,” he wrote in a statement Sunday.
The letter was sent to Comaroff just after 5 p.m. Sunday by Harvard anthropology department chair Ajantha Subramanian, who provided it to The Crimson in response to a related request.
The Sunday letter was signed by 14 other faculty members: David Carrasco, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Steven C. Caton, Gabriella Coleman, William L. Fash, Rowan K. Flad, Joseph P. Gone ’92, Byron J Good, Nicholas H. Harkness, Arthur M. Kleinman, Matthew Liebmann, Peter Der Manuelian ’81, Michael J. Puett and Jason A. Ur.
The core faculty who organized the letter were unable to reach some tenured faculty members about their support for the statement before it was sent, Subramanian said.
Earlier this month, three graduate anthropology students filed a federal lawsuit against Harvard, alleging the school ignored years of sexual misconduct complaints against Comaroff, a professor of African and African-American studies and anthropology. . The lawsuit outlines a decade of sexual harassment and professional retaliation allegations against Comaroff, who was not named as a defendant.
Harvard Arts and Science dean Claudine Gay disciplined Comaroff last month after university investigations found he violated school policies on sexual harassment and harassment. malpractice. Comaroff is prohibited from advising other students and teaching required courses in the upcoming academic year.
In a statement Sunday, Comaroff’s attorneys — Janet E. Halley, Norman S. Zalkind and Ruth O’Meara Costello ’02 — called the letter a “moral panic.” They wrote that Harvard had “thoroughly investigated” the allegations against Comaroff and sanctioned him based on its findings.
“It was a long process during which the plaintiffs had many opportunities to be heard and to present evidence,” the lawyers wrote. “The claims of the lawsuit are unproven and its most serious allegations have been found, in multiple Harvard investigations, to be unsupported by evidence. A moral panic is no substitute for a fair process.
The anthropology department has been rocked by allegations of gender harassment in recent years. In May 2020, The Crimson reported on allegations of sexual harassment against three prominent professors in the department, including Comaroff.
“We are calling on Professor Comaroff to resign from the Department of Anthropology as we believe that his return to our department from his administrative leave will undermine our ongoing efforts to rebuild trust and create a safe and supportive learning environment,” Subramanian said, the chair of anthropology, wrote in an email Sunday.
In the nearly two weeks since the lawsuit was filed, Comaroff has lost the support of many Harvard professors, including some who initially defended him. Earlier this month, 35 faculty members withdrew their support for a letter they signed days earlier that questioned the findings of investigations into Comaroff’s misconduct.
FAS first placed Comaroff on paid administrative leave in August 2020 after The Crimson reported that at least three female students had been in contact with Harvard’s Title IX office about allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation from Comaroff.