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Harvard professor to retire as he faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment

Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg News)

A longtime Harvard University government professor said Tuesday he plans to retire after several women accused him of sexual harassment over a period spanning decades.

Jorge I. Dominguez, who has been on the Harvard faculty since the 1970s, said in an email to colleagues that he would retire by the end of the semester and immediately step down from administrative duties. He is not teaching this semester.

Dominguez has faced scrutiny in recent days since the Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week on allegations from several women that he had kissed them or touched them inappropriately, or said things that made them uncomfortable. The number of accusers, the Chronicle reported this week, has reached 18.

In 1983, the Chronicle reported, Harvard found Dominguez responsible for “serious misconduct” in a case involving a female professor with less seniority who said he made repeated and unwanted sexual advances, including attempted kisses and an occasion when he groped her with his hand up her skirt. She said she repeatedly pleaded with him to stop.

At the time, Dominguez held power over his female colleague because he held tenure, she did not and they both worked in the field of Latin American studies. The woman, Terry Karl, eventually left Harvard and became a tenured professor at Stanford University. Dominguez stayed at Harvard and held several significant positions, including vice provost for international affairs from 2006 to 2015.

On Sunday, Harvard announced that Dominguez had been placed on administrative leave while it reviews allegations against him.

“I want to be very clear that Dominguez’s forthcoming retirement does not change the full and fair process of review that is currently underway,” Michael D. Smith, dean of Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences, said in a statement Tuesday. “He remains on administrative leave until it is concluded.”

A Boston attorney representing Dominguez, Leon H. Kesten, said in an email the professor “chooses not to comment.” The Chronicle quoted him as saying recently that he “sought to behave honorably in all my relationships.”

Karl, a professor emerita of political science and Latin American studies at Stanford, wrote in an email to The Washington Post: “A quiet retirement is 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. 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?”

Dominguez joined the Harvard faculty in 1972. He holds the position of Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico, according to his academic biography.

In his email Tuesday to colleagues, Dominguez said: “I am retiring from my job at Harvard at the end of this semester. It has been a privilege to serve the university. 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.”

Jennifer Hochschild, chair of the government department at Harvard, noted that Dominguez’s administrative leave “means that he is no longer on campus, nor will he be teaching or performing other administrative duties at this time. Further, his forthcoming retirement does not change the active review of the facts and circumstance that have recently come to light.”