Harvard University Lawsuit
Gender Discrimination/Title IX/Civil Rights/Equal Rights
Filed in: U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Docket: Case 1:22-cv-10202
Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a lawsuit on February 8, 2022, against Harvard University and the President and Fellows of Harvard College. The Complaint alleges that Harvard violated Title IX and Massachusetts Civil Rights and Common laws by willfully ignoring a near-decade-long pattern of sexual harassment and retaliation by tenured Anthropology Professor John Comaroff against three female graduate students in Harvard’s Anthropology Department. The Complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of the three students, Margaret Czerwienski, Lilia Kilburn, and Amulya Mandava.
The Complaint alleges that Harvard failed to protect the three students from Professor Comaroff’s harassment, retaliation and abuse of power, and all have been forced to radically alter their fields of study and pursuit of their degrees.
Beginning in 2017, the Complaint alleges, Professor Comaroff, a renowned anthropologist with deep connections in his field, repeatedly and forcibly kissed Ms. Kilburn, groped her in public, graphically and bizarrely imagined her rape and murder aloud, cut her off from other professors, and derailed her degree progress. Further, when Ms. Czerwienski and Ms. Mandava warned other female students and reported Professor Comaroff to Harvard’s Title IX office and Office of Dispute Resolution, the university failed to act as Prof. Comaroff retaliated, in part, by ensuring that Ms. Czerwienski and Ms. Mandava would have “trouble getting jobs.”
The Complaint asserts that Harvard’s conduct violates Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act, and Massachusetts’s prohibition on sexual harassment in educational institutions. The Complaint also alleges that Harvard was negligent in its supervision and retention of Professor John Comaroff; that Harvard committed breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and that Harvard violated Massachusetts law by obtaining and disseminating Ms. Kilburn’s therapy records without her consent.
The Complaint requests a jury trial.
- Original Complaint filed on Feb. 8, 2022
- Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial, filed June 21, 2022
- Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant’s Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to Count Ten, filed August 23, 2022
- Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant’s Amended Motion to Dismiss Counts One to Nine of Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint, filed August 23, 2022
- United States’ Statement of Interest, filed September 7, 2022
- Reuters — “U.S. backs students claiming Harvard ignored professor’s sexual harassment”
- The Harvard Crimson — “Harvard Grad Student Union Protests Comaroff’s Return to Teaching After Sexual Harassment Findings”
- The Harvard Crimson — “Harvard Asks Judge to Dismiss Comaroff Sexual Harassment Lawsuit”
- The Boston Globe — “It’stime to fix the vast power disparity between university graduate students and advisers, critics say”
- The Boston Globe — “Victims of sexual harassment on college campuses deserve independent investigations”
- Bloomberg Law — “Microsoft Sets Bar on Investigating Harassment. Who Will Follow”
- The New York Times — “AfterSexual Harassment Lawsuit, Critics Attack Harvard’s Release of Therapy Records”
- New York Magazine — “All the Alarming Allegations in Harvard’s Sexual Harassment Suit”
- WGBH —"'Ignored for far too long’: Harvard students suing university over sexual harassment share their story” (video)
- AP — “3 women sue Harvard, allege school ignored sexual harassment”