More than 100 Harvard students walk out of class of professor accused of sexual abuse

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More than 100 Harvard students walked out of professor John L. Comaroff’s class Tuesday afternoon to protest his teaching again after he was placed on leave last year for violating the school’s sexual harassment and professional conduct policies.

The Harvard Crimson, the school’s student newspaper, reported that the students protested Comaroff’s first lecture of the year by plastering the walls of the building where he teaches with signs reading “Abusers have no place on campus” and “Stop protecting sexual predators.” After Comaroff started his lecture, students stood up from their seats and walked out, chanting “Justice for survivors” and “No more Comaroff, no more complicity,” the student newspaper reported.

Harvard student Rosie Couture tweeted a video of students walking out of the classroom that showed students protesting seconds after Comaroff started his lecture. A similar walkout occurred in Comaroff’s first lecture of the fall 2022 semester, when he returned to teaching after being placed on unpaid administrative leave, the Harvard Crimson reported.

Comaroff, who teaches African and African American studies and anthropology, was placed on unpaid administrative leave for the spring 2022 semester for violating the school’s sexual harassment and professional conduct studies. This suspension came after three anthropology students filed a lawsuit against Harvard last spring accusing the university of ignoring serious allegations against Comaroff for years.

In the complaint, the students allege that Comaroff threatened their academic careers if they chose to report him.

“When students reported him to Harvard and sought to warn their peers about him, Harvard watched as he retaliated by foreclosing career paths and ensuring that those students would have ’trouble getting jobs,’ ” the complaint filed in February of 2022 stated.

“Harvard even allowed its investigatory process to be used in service of Professor Comaroff’s campaign of professional blacklisting,” the complaint continues. “The results have been devastating: Professor Comaroff and his enablers have destroyed the educational opportunities and careers of countless students.”

One of the students who filed the complaint accused Comaroff of kissing her multiple times without her consent and of groping her in public. The lawsuit remains ongoing in the District of Massachusetts federal court.

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