YouTube-famous MIT physics professor engaged in sexual harassment, investigation finds

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Walter Lewin, a retired MIT physicist and professor whose dynamic classroom antics and dramatic teaching style are legendary on campus and online, sexually harassed at least one student who enrolled in an online course he taught, according to an MIT investigation that was revealed today. The university is removing Lewin’s teaching material hosted on MIT’s online education platforms, including those on MITx, edX and OpenCourseware. 

According to MIT, the decision caps off a probe by the physics department into Lewin’s relationship with at least one student who enrolled in one of Lewin’s MITx online courses. She registered a complaint claiming harassment and also told MIT about instances of inappropriate behavior with other women.

In a release describing the decision, the institute announced that:

“Based on its investigation, MIT has determined that Lewin’s behavior toward the complainant violated the Institute’s policy on sexual harassment. Following broad consultation among faculty, MIT is indefinitely removing Lewin’s online courses, in the interest of preventing any further inappropriate behavior.”

MIT did not reveal the name of the student, and the initial announcement did not clarify if investigations into Lewin’s relationship with more than one student were conducted.

One in six female undergraduates living on campus reported being assaulted at MIT, according to an anonymous survey published earlier this year. Following this report, and a personal story published by a student this spring, MIT pledged to better address incidents and complaints of harassment.

Photo via Dominick Reuter/MIT

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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