Harvard University Professor Sues Over Denied Tenure

Pedestrians cross the Harvard University campus after recent news about disciplinary actions resulting from the cheating scandal. JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE (Metro, Landergan)
Harvard University is named in a discrimination lawsuit filed by one of its assistant professors.
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

A professor at Harvard University is alleging that the Ivy League institution violated federal law when it denied her tenure last month.

Dr. Kimberly Theidon, a professor in the university’s Department of Anthropology, filed a lawsuit last month claiming that Harvard violated Title IX, which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities which receive Federal financial assistance.

In particular, Theidon said “the denial was in retaliation for her public expressions of support for sexual assault victims, as well as for complaining that she was not receiving the same pay as her male colleagues,” according to the Harvard Crimson.

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Theidon has made a name for herself by being outspoken about sexual assault victims, a topic that has brought Harvard some unwanted attention as of late.

The Crimson reported:

"This is about silencing a problem on this campus," Theidon said in an interview Thursday. She said that she had advocated for sexual assault victims in a variety of ways, ranging from statements she made in the classroom, to private conversations with students, to comments she posted online.

Theidon's Twitter feed is mostly comprised of posts directing readers to various stories having to do with victims of sexual assault.

Late last month, an anonymous Harvard student who said she was a victim of an on-campus sexual assault, wrote an open letter published in the Crimson about her unsuccessful attempts to get support from Harvard regarding her “personal issues.”

Theidon was promoted in 2008 before being designated as the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, the “most distinguished tenure-track [Harvard] faculty,” according to the Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post reported:

"I was told on multiple occasions to be a 'dutiful daughter' if I wanted to make it in the ranks at Harvard," Theidon told The Huffington Post. "By all means, look the other way -- isn?t that what the 'dutiful daughter' does? That was not an acceptable option for me ... I was never willing to check my conscience when I walked through the gates and into Harvard Yard."

Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal told the Crimson this week that Theidon’s tenure status was not related to her stance on sexual assault victims:


[T]he University would never consider a faculty member's advocacy for students who have experienced sexual assault when making a tenure decision," Neal wrote in an email. "Instead, tenure decisions are based on the quality of a faculty member's research, teaching and University citizenship."