The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 78.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Former Dean Sues MIT for Harassment

By Christopher Falling
Associate News Editor

Former Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities James R. Tewhey filed a civil lawsuit against the Institute and several employees in Middlesex Superior Court on Tuesday.

The co-defendants include President Charles M. Vest, Provost Mark S. Wrighton, Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith, Special Assistant to the President Mary P. Rowe, Vice President for Human Resources Joan F. Rice, former financial aid administrator Katherine M. Nolan, and former staff accountant for the Undergraduate Association Sharon P. Shea.

According to the complaint Tewhey filed on Tuesday, he believes the defendants created a hostile work environment and unlawfully sexually harassed him.

"I firmly believe [that] in a forum in which every side gets to tell their story, the ultimate outcome will show that I never at any time anywhere or any place at MIT harassed anyone. Rather what the facts will show is that I was harassed," Tewhey said.

Tewhey, who is representing himself, is requesting that he be awarded compensatory damages, punitive damages, and costs of the suit.

MIT spokesman Kenneth D. Campbell declined to comment on the lawsuit yesterday.

Charges stem from events in 1993

The suit is the latest move in the continuing saga that caused Tewhey to leave MIT in April 1993. At that time, a Newton court placed a restraining order on Tewhey and Cambridge Superior Court placed another on Nolan, an administrator with whom Tewhey had an 18-month-long affair; each was barred from contact with the other.

According to Tewhey's complaint, "On or about Oct. 2, 1992, Smith informed Tewhey that Nolan had seen [Smith] in July and had described Tewhey as unstable. Smith suggested that perhaps Tewhey should resign."

"Tewhey refused to resign, stated that Nolan's actions amounted to retaliation for Tewhey's refusal to continue a personal relationship, and as such, Nolan's actions constituted sexual harassment," the complaint said.

"As an individual who had responsibility for adjudicating issues that arose under the harassment policy and as the individual at MIT who had more experience than anyone else at MIT at adjudicating these issues no male or group of males would have ever been allowed to do to a woman what has done to me," said Tewhey in an interview last night.

Tewhey had filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, but it was dismissed on Feb. 3. The MCAD found that the complaint was without probable cause.

Resignation confusion

According to the complaint, on March 26, 1993 Tewhey met with Smith saying "the situation at MIT was completely out of control." He was concerned that an incident on campus would be manufactured to embarrass him. Tewhey then asked about the possibility of taking a leave of absence.

On April 20, Wrighton requested Tewhey's resignation, and Tewhey agreed to resign only if MIT would act on the grievance, Tewhey said. Wrighton was reluctant, saying that acting on the grievance was not in MIT's interest, but finally agreed, Tewhey said.

In a Tech article published that week ["Charges of Harassment Fly as Dean Ends Six-Year Tenure," April 21, 1993], Wrighton said that Tewhey "has some problems I think he needs to address at this time. I think he has made the commitment to resolve them. I think he has done the right thing for himself and MIT."

According to Tewhey's complaint, "On or about June 4, 1993, Rice wrote to Tewhey stating that MIT would not act on the grievance and that no wide ranging investigation would take place."

Tewhey appealed Rice's decision to both Wrighton and Vest, both of whomrejected Tewhey's appeal. On Oct. 19, after Tewhey refused to sign a letter of resignation, his employment at MIT was terminated.