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Tewhey Denies That He Harassed Nolan

By Josh Hartmann
Photography Editor

James R. Tewhey, the former associate dean for student affairs, denied harassment charges levelled against him by Katherine M. Nolan, associate director of student financial aid.

Tewhey, 44, resigned Tuesday amid charges and countercharges of harassment and office mismanagement. Earlier that day, his request for a restraining order against Nolan was turned down by a Cambridge District Court judge. Nolan's request for a similar order, lasting six months, was approved by a Newton District Court judge on April 16.

According to court papers, both Tewhey, who is married, and Nolan, 43, admitted to an 18-month relationship which ended in July 1992. Each accused the other of harassment upon the conclusion of the relationship. On April 9, each obtained a temporary restraining order preventing contact from the other, pending a full hearing.

"Due to the existence of a court order against me, and to the hostile work environment created by harassment by a professional colleague, I felt my position was untenable," Tewhey said in a statement yesterday.

"I now know personally how damaging and dangerous harassment can be, and I never have and never would engage in activities that could be defined as harassment," Tewhey continued.

In his statement, Tewhey said that in March of 1992 he filed a formal grievance with the personnel office. He declined to say who the colleague was who harassed him, nor would he describe the nature of the hostile work environment.

"I am confident that once the investigation of this charge is completed it will be proven that a hostile work environment was created at MIT which made it impossible for me to perform my duties," Tewhey said.

Joan F. Rice, the director of the personnel office, could not comment on whether a complaint was filed.

"He has some problems I think he needs to address at this time," said Provost Mark S. Wrighton, who accepted Tewhey's resignation. "I think he has made the commitment to resolve them. I think he has done the right thing for himself and for MIT."

Nolan alleges over 25 incidents

In the affidavit, Nolan said Tewhey harassed her over 25 times, detailing several incidents. Nolan did not return telephone messages left at her home yesterday. Her lawyer Wednesday said Nolan stands by her affidavit made to the Newton court.

In one incident, Tewhey allegedly appeared from a remote side street in Cambridge as she was leaving work in her car the evening of April 6. He pulled his vehicle very close to the right side of her car while waiting for a traffic signal. Nolan said that at this point, the encounter violated Feb. 22 Campus Police cease and desist orders forbidding contact between the two of them.

She continued: "I took a left hand turn through the red light to avoid him, and he followed taking a left turn from the right lane until I pulled over in proximity of an MIT Campus Police station." She added that similar behavior occurred since September 1992.

She also said that on Dec. 18, 1992, Tewhey waited in the parking lot and approached her as she entered her car. "He admitted he was timing his departure to run into me and talk and see me. He also stated he was so madly in love with me that he lived his life from one moment he saw me to the next," she wrote in the affidavit.

Eisenmann assumes duties

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Andrew M. Eisenmann '75 was handed Tewhey's day-to-day duties as head of the residence and campus activities section yesterday, according to Kenneth D. Campbell, director of the news office. Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph will assume overall responsibility for Tewhey's department while Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith is on vacation.

"This is a difficult situation for all of us," Randolph said in a statement to housemasters. "Jim has made major contributions to the MIT community that have made this a better place."

A search for Tewhey's permanent successor will not begin until Smith returns from vacation next week, Campbell said. Undergraduate Association Floor Leader Raajnish A. Chitaley '95 said he was confident that students would serve on that search committee.

"I think the students will be well-served in the future as I think they have been in the past," Wrighton said. "I hope we can continue to provide the services we have in the past."

Management style questioned

Past and present employees who worked under Tewhey offered conflicting opinions of Tewhey's managerial ability before news of Tuesday's resignation spread.

Humanities lecturer Ann Russo has dealt with Tewhey on a number of occasions as a lecturer in the Women's Studies Program. "There's been a number of students and staff who have come to me with a number of problems they've had dealing with Tewhey," she said, adding that she felt many harassment cases were not handled properly.

"He did some inappropriate management things," said Adam Goodie, a former Dean's Office assistant who worked in the Undergraduate Association office. "He had very little contact with me, which bugged me."

But Mary Ni, assistant dean for student affairs, tells a different story. "I did hear from some people that he wasn't a good boss," she said. "My personal assessment is that I think he's pretty good. I have found him to be very fair and thoughtful. His managerial style is loose, but I don't find it terribly problematic."

Although sources said formal complaints were made regarding Tewhey's management procedure, Wrighton said he was not aware of those concerns and would not comment on personnel matters.

"I suspected MIT's plan was to get him out as soon as possible," said one source who has worked with Tewhey. "It looks better for him to resign than be fired. I don't think he stands any chance of getting a student affairs position in Boston. It was a fait accompli that he was going to leave," said the source, who requested anonymity.

(Editor's note: Hyun Soo Kim and Garlen C. Leung contributed to the reporting of this story.)