The Scorecard - Major Players
James Tewhey
Former Associate Dean For Residence And Campus Activities, in the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs
Katherine Nolan
Associate Director of Student Financial Aid
Sharon Shea
Accountant in the Office of the Dean for Residence and Campus Activities
The Essentials

Tewhey, who is married, had an 18 month affair with Nolan. When they broke up, they each charged the other with sexual harrassment at MIT. Tewhey also filed MIT sexual harassment charges against Shea. Shea and Tewhey filed sexual harassment complaints against MIT with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Tewhey has a sexual harassment lawsuit pending against MIT and various members of the adminstration. That's nowhere near the whole story, it's a veritable festival of charges and suing. There are also leaked letters which reveal a great deal about how a sexual harassment case is really handled.

So why does it matter?

All the politics has local civil-libertarians metaphorically rolling on the floor, pounding the carpet through tears of laughter, saying "WE TOLD YOU SO!". It's been a long-standing position that the vague definitions of harassment and secret investigation with no accountability or due process leads to extreme politicization. Then a case like this comes along, and validations everything that's ever been said, and more. Everybody's charging "harassment" against everybody else, and claiming to have been mistreated for political concerns.

Some interesting quotes:

In its effort to be "politically correct" and to react without hesitation to any allegation that a woman makes, MIT has fostered an environment where no male is protected from the damage of a fabricated charge.
From Tewhey's open letter to the MIT community, giving his side of the story.

He was not interested in facts, he was interested in power. ... This same dean has for years abused his position in knee-jerk reactions to complaints filed by women. He called sexual harassment any complaint filed by a woman against a man. His behavior was uniformly reprehensible and is the sole reason I, and several other alumni, refuse to give to the MIT alumni fund.
From a letter on the case, headlined Tewhey Deserves What He Is Receiving.

69. On July 26, 1993, Tewhey filed a formal grievance with Wrighton against Shea alleging that Shea had (1) approached Rice claiming that Tewhey had engaged in multiple affairs with undergraduate women, (2) alleged to Rice and other MIT administrators that Tewhey had sodomized undergraduate males, (3) approached several MIT student newspapers and attempted to induce them to print the above allegations and (4) had sent electronic mail to former colleagues of Tewhey's at Smith College asking for any compromising information that they might have in their possession regarding his employment at Smith College. Tewhey included copies of the electronic mail with the grievance.
From Tewhey v. MIT (yes, it really is paragraph 69).
Yes, my case (and Tewhey's) at MIT have been a real circus. FYI, my problems started when I was brought in to hear that there was a complaint against me, that I would be throughly investigated in every aspect of my professional behavior, that I could be terminated and that no, I would not be allowed to see the detail of the charges against me. You heard that right, I would not be allowed to see the complaint. This could happen only at the discretion of the investigator (which, incidently, he decided to do). Most of the 'charges' were not related to me, but were a sad diatribe about how shabbily Tewhey had been treated. Also, there was nothing in the 'charges' that specified a definite statement, a time or place that I was involved in. It did, however, mention things such as what awful friends I had (people that Tewhey had reason to to be upset about). The complainant didn't know these individuals. The charges were dismissed.
From Shea's public comments.

More background:

James Tewhey was Associate Dean For Student Affairs at MIT. As head of the Residence and Campus Activities section, he often handled disciplinary matters. He was sometimes criticized and said to render "more injustice than justice". There were complaints that he cared little for due process. Thus, when accused of sexual harassment himself, there was a reaction that it was poetic justice, "he deserves it".

The fact that a married Dean with some responsibility for handling student sexual harassment complaints was having an affair while doing so is funny enough. He ended up resigning after he and his ex-lover (Nolan) got restraining orders against each other. Note his wife has publically defended him and he has denied engaging in any harassment.

The Provost of MIT has reportedly said that there was only one complaint against Tewhey and that was without merit. The Ad Hoc Committee Against Harassment at MIT has charged otherwise.

Meanwhile, Sharon Shea has made various charges and allegations of harassment and retaliation, including ones related to violations of e-mail privacy and alleged poor due process. There are some important issues regarding MIT policies

Tewhey filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) against MIT, which was eventually dismissed. Now he's pursuing a full-fledged lawsuit.

The most interested items for study are the all the charges and counter-charges and the leaked letters.

Go back to the cases archive, or return to the homepage for the MIT Student Association for Freedom of Expression

This page written by Seth Finkelstein

Disclaimer: This page is a statement of opinion, and does not represent the viewpoint of the MIT Student Association for Freedom of Expression or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT bears no responsibility for its contents or documents.