MIT: 'Beloved' Prof Sexually Harassed Student

Online lectures of retired physics prof Walter Lewin removed
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2014 9:09 AM CST
MIT: 'Beloved' Prof Sexually Harassed Student
A student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reads outside on campus, Sunday, April 22, 2007, in Cambridge, Mass.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

A retired MIT physics professor described by the Tech as "a beloved teacher and minor Internet star" might see that star begin to fade. The university is undertaking a "complete separation" from Walter Lewin, per the school's provost, following an internal investigation of a student's sexual harassment complaint. A student alleged in October that Lewin harassed her over the Internet when she took one of his online classes, the Boston Globe reports. She provided "detailed materials" to the school, and in a statement, MIT says it "determined that Lewin's behavior toward the complainant violated the Institute's policy on sexual harassment." It is now removing his online lectures from the edX platform "in the interest of preventing any further inappropriate behavior."

Lewin, 78, stopped teaching on campus in 2008, but was teaching online as recently as last year. His lectures received up to 10,000 views per day, and the Tech points to a 2007 New York Times profile of him that called out his "zany theatricality" and likened his "panache" to that of "Julia Child bringing French cooking to amateurs." "Dr. Lewin had a long and distinguished career at MIT, and it is painful to learn of the behavior that necessitated this action. However, complaints of harassment must be met immediately and squarely in all cases," notes Provost Martin Schmidt. He tells the Tech the school has rescinded Lewin's title of professor emeritus. The woman who filed the complaint said others had also suffered harassment, BetaBoston notes. (More Massachusetts Institute of Technology stories.)

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