Professor filing Title IX suit against Harvard

Kimberly Theidon – formerly a tenure-track professor at Harvard – is filing a title IX suit against Harvard university, claiming she was retaliated against when Harvard denied her tenure after her department unanimously voted in her favor. Theidon had been a vocal advocate for victims of sexual harassment and assault at Harvard, and had allegedly been cautioned that these activities could interfere with her tenure case.

More details here can be found here.

5 thoughts on “Professor filing Title IX suit against Harvard

  1. There just doesn’t seem to be any way to exonerate Harvard. We may not know every last detail of the case, but we know enough to say that Theidon has been very badly done by. Harvard apparently figures they can have whoever they want, so why pick somebody who speaks up about “political” stuff like sexual harassment?

  2. Um…many Harvard faculty speak up about “political” stuff. Henry Louis gates and Cornell west (at one time) being two quite famous examples. There is also Timothy McCarthy (gay rights activist) and Lawrence lessig (law prof). These are just off the top of my head. There are many more. Not to mention all the research being done in these “political” areas. A quick look at say, women’s studies at Harvard, should be enough to disabuse the certainty that Harvard is hell bent on silencing people with views on sexuality, assault, race and their intersections. Considering all that, I find it difficult to believ that a few comments made by the prof in question to an online comment section resulted in her denial. Note, too, that Harvard’s law school dean is a woman as is its current pres.

  3. Do we (philosophers reading this news article) know for sure she should have gotten tenure on the merits?

    An elite University like Harvard will sometimes deny tenure to professors who were recommended by their departments for tenure. The questions I’d like answers to are:

    Does Harvard ever deny tenure to someone whose department unanimously recommended tenure (as in this case)?
    Does this department always unanimously recommend tenure whenever a tenure case comes up? (I assume not.)
    Does this department always unanimously recommend tenure whenever they do recommend tenure? (If so, their unanimity is less significant.)
    That is, how significant is it that tenure was unanimously recommended by the department? And how unusual is it for the university to act contrary to a unanimous recommendation?

    Lots of talented people are denied tenure at places like Harvard. So I don’t know if the news reports give us enough information to know that on the merits she definitely should have gotten tenure.

    Another thing we need to know, of course, is what role her political activities played in the university decision. If they played a role, it should only have told in favor of giving her tenure. (Note that discussing them is not in itself problematic, just as discussing “extra service” someone did for the university would not be problematic. That’s the right way of seeing what she was doing, I think.)

  4. That all seems right to me, Tenured Female Philosopher – there’s clearly a lot of relevant info here we don’t yet know. It will be really interesting to watch how this unfolds.

  5. To pick up on two points: I thought that the difference between Theidon and others is that she criticized the Harvard admin on a very hot topic, one that has currently engaged the Obama admin. Also, West left Harvard, if I remember correctly, because he felt he was treated very badly.

    About the first point: universities can be especially harsh, I understand, with faculty who criticize their performance publically. Perhaps especially if very senior people on the president’s staff are already breathing down various necks.

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