Over 70 graduate and undergraduate students staged a walk-out of the disgraced professor John L. Comaroff’s anthropology lecture at the beginning of Harvard’s Spring 2023 Semester. Comaroff is currently facing allegations of violating the university’s sexual assault policies and professional conduct policies .
The demonstration is the culmination of Harvard students demanding reforms to the university’s sexual misconduct policies. The event began on a Friday afternoon in front of Harvard’s Science Center, the building where Comaroff held all his classes. Student protesters marched throughout Harvard Yard and ended their march in front of University Hall .
Protestors chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Comaroff has got to go,” and “No more Comaroff, no more complicity.” The anti-rape culture advocacy group, Our Harvard Can Do Better, was also in attendance at the event and hung a red sheet over the John Harvard Statue and a banner that read, “Shame on Harvard,” on two flagpoles in front of University Hall .
The investigation into Comaroff’s allegations began in January 2022 after Harvard confirmed that Comaroff had violated both sexual assault and professional conduct policies. According to the Harvard Crimson, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences placed Comaroff on one semester of unpaid administrative leave in spring of 2022 .
Interestingly enough, this is the second walk-out that students have conducted against Professor Comaroff’s return, with the first one being held during the Fall 2022 Semester right after Comaroff returned from his suspension .
Harvard students protested even harder the second time around with students initiating the classroom walk-out, which included a speech and multiple signs that read “Believe Survivors” and “Predator.” A student, in her remarks, stated, “we don’t want to be taught by someone who has still not been held accountable for or made amends for their sexual misconduct. John Comaroff spent his career harassing, silencing and retaliating against students. He does not belong at Harvard. If you agree, please join us in walking out of this classroom because enough is enough” .
Rosie Couture, a student witness in the classroom at the time of the walk-out, took a video of the incident and uploaded it to Twitter. Professor Comaroff was seen smiling and nodding his head throughout the speech. Couture captioned her video: “Watch the moment 100+ Harvard students walked out of John Comaroff’s classroom, a current professor and known sexual abuser. We demand Comaroff resigns & Harvard ends their complicity in sexual abuse and misogyny on campus.” The video has since gone viral and currently has over 173,000 views [2,4].
The three students that filed the allegations against Comaroff were Amulya Mandava, Margaret Czerwienski and Lila Kilburn, all former students of Comaroff. The list of Comaroff’s accusations is damning. Details from Kilburn stated she encountered “forced kissing, groping, persistent invitations to socialize alone off-campus and coercive control,” according to Newsweek .
In an interview with The New York Times, another student reported that Comaroff allegedly told a lesbian student she could face “corrective rape” in parts of Africa due to her sexuality. The interviewee further went on to say that the comment made by Comaroff were made with a “tone of enjoyment” .
Comaroff, with the help of his legal team, has continued to deny any such claims of sexual harassment and professional conduct violations, despite being found guilty by Harvard for “verbal sexual harassment.” The lawsuit and investigation into Comaroff remain active in the District of Massachusetts federal court [2,3].
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