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Former Dean Tewhey Continues Suit against MIT



By Christopher L. Falling
Associate News Editor

In the latest response to an ongoing sexual harassment suit, former Dean of Residence and Campus Activities James R. Tewhey on Monday presented his case against MIT in a routine hearing in Cambridge Superior Court.

Defendants named in the case include President Charles M. Vest, former Provost Mark S. Wrighton, former Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith, Vice President for Human Resources Joan F. Rice, and former financial aid administrator Katherine M. Nolan.

According to the 13-count complaint, Tewhey charges the defendants with creating a hostile work environment and unlawfully sexually harassing him. This charge is the latest response to a suit filed by Nolan against Tewhey claiming that he harassed her.

The hearing was held in response to the defendants' motion to dismiss the case based on the failure of the plaintiff to state a claim justified under law.

The judge must rule separately on the dismissal motions for each of the 13 counts of illegal action that Tewhey claims.

Tewhey suit dates to 1993 problems

The suit is part of 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, with whom Tewhey had an 18-month-long affair. Each was barred from contact with the other.

According to the 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, saying that Nolan's actions constituted sexual harassment. On April 20, Wrighton asked for Tewhey's resignation, and Tewhey agreed to resign if MIT would act on his grievance.

According to the complaint, "on or about June 4, 1993, Rice wrote to Tewhey stating that MIT would not act on his grievance." On Oct. 19, Tewhey's employment with MITwas terminated after he refused to sign a letter of resignation.

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

Tewhey confident about future

Tewhey said that he expects the judge to reach a decision in about two weeks to a month. He also said that he feels comfortable with the hearing and the proceedings.

"My own view is that no matter what the decision is, Iam confident that this is not the last step" of the case, Tewhey said. "I am confident that Iwill win."

Should the case be dismissed, Tewhey would have three basic options: to file an appeal, to amend his complaint in accordance to the judge's decision, or to accept the decision and "walk away."

"I cannot imagine any set of circumstances that would incline me to just walk away," Tewhey said.

The process of finding evidence to determine whether or not it is sufficient to warrant a trial has started. However, the process is currently on hold while the motion to dismiss is being evaluated.

Tewhey has submitted interrogatories -- a set of written questions to be answered under oath -- to the defendants.

Once the questions are answered and the defendants have responded to their interrogatories, the process of taking depositions will begin.

While the compensation that Tewhey could receive from a civil trial is monetary, he is "far more interested in getting the truth out about this matter," he said.

Tewhey said that there has been no discussion of settlement at this time. "I doubt there will be any [discussion] for some time -- if there ever is," Tewhey said.

Tewhey has been attending law school since his dismissal from MIT and will be finishing at the end of this academic year.

MIT's lawyers declined to comment on the case.