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Anthropology Prof. John Comaroff Placed on Administrative Leave Following Allegations of Sexual Harassment

The Tozzer Building on Divinity Avenue houses the Anthropology department.
The Tozzer Building on Divinity Avenue houses the Anthropology department. By Sanjana S. Ramrajvel
By James S. Bikales, Crimson Staff Writer

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay placed Anthropology and African and African-American Studies professor John L. Comaroff on paid administrative leave Monday afternoon following allegations that he sexually harassed students and retaliated against those who spoke out against him.

The Crimson reported in May that at least three current female students were in contact with Harvard’s Title IX office regarding allegations against Comaroff and that the Anthropology department had asked him not to use his department office and teach a course in the spring.

Gay announced her decision to place Comaroff on leave in a Monday afternoon email to faculty and students in Anthropology and African and African-American Studies. She referred to the “public reports of allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation” against Comaroff, a world-renowned scholar of African civilizations.

“Due to the seriousness of these allegations, and in accordance with University and FAS policies, I write to announce that the FAS has placed Professor Comaroff on paid administrative leave, pending a full review of the facts and circumstances regarding the allegations that have been reported,” she wrote.

“I believe that sexual harassment constitutes a form of discrimination that is both personally damaging for those who experience it and is an assault on our faculty’s fundamental commitments to equity and academic excellence,” Gay added.

Comaroff wrote in an emailed statement that he "denies all allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation."

"Today's announcement is prejudicial to the fair determination of any claims against him, punitive without any factfinding, defamatory, and a violation of the Harvard University Sexual Harassment Policy and Proc[e]dure's confidentiality rules," he wrote.

Comaroff was scheduled to advise graduate students this fall and teach AFRAMER 209A: “Africa Rising? New African Economies/Cultures and Their Global Implications” with his wife Jean Comaroff, also a professor of Anthropology and African and African-American Studies. Jean Comaroff taught a course in the spring by herself after the Anthropology department asked her husband not to teach the course.

The Crimson’s investigation also revealed allegations of harassment against fellow Anthropology professors Theodore C. Bestor and Gary Urton. Gay placed Urton on leave five days after the story’s publication, and he announced his retirement in July, though an investigation is ongoing. The department also announced the establishment of a standing committee to address what it called “an environment in which abuses continue to manifest and go undetected.”

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

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