Was A Philosophy Instructor Fired To Retaliate For His Wife’s Complaint of Sexual Harassment?

English Professor Michelle Karnes claims that Stanford University did not renew the contract of her husband, philosophy instructor Shane Duarte, in order to retaliate against her for filing a sexual harassment complaint against a senior faculty member. Karnes is now associate professor of English at Notre Dame, and her husband has secured a position there as well. 

Karnes described her experiences at Stanford University to The Guardian:

Stephen Hinton wouldn’t leave her alone. After Michelle Karnes politely rejected the Stanford professor and former dean, according to her complaint, he didn’t back down.

It was July 2012, and he allegedly told Karnes, then an untenured professor, that he had a “crush” on her and was “tormented” by his feelings. She said she made clear she didn’t want further contact. But Hinton—a powerful faculty member who had hired her—allegedly continued to confront her at the gym, telling her he wasn’t “stalking”, but wanted to talk.

“I just wanted to crawl out of my skin, I was so uncomfortable,” Karnes, 42, said in an interview. “I was really scared.”

A university investigation of Karnes’ sexual harassment complaint concluded that Hinton, who is 20 years older, had made an “unwanted sexual advance”, but it’s unclear if the professor faced any consequences. On the contrary, Karnes says that administrators retaliated against her for speaking up and pushed her out of Stanford. 

Hinton vigorously denied the allegations, claiming they had a “platonic, reciprocal relationship” and pointing out that a university investigation concluded his conduct did not constitute sexual harassment. From Karnes’ perspective, however, the university went to great lengths to protect a senior faculty member and silence his accuser, prioritizing the institution’s reputation over her wellbeing…


Although the dean’s office approved Karnes’ tenure in 2015, she soon after learned that her husband, Shane Duarte, a Stanford philosophy lecturer, would not have his position renewed in 2016.

To the couple, it became obvious the move was retaliatory. They had been hired as a “dual-career academic couple”, and Karnes said it was highly unusual for Stanford to grant tenure to one spouse and terminate the other after years of service.

Records also show that Duarte regularly received high marks on teacher evaluations, and Karnes said she even offered to forgo a raise, which would have covered a majority of her husband’s salary.

The administrators lacked grounds to deny Karnes tenure after she received unanimous support from department faculty, she said, and instead targeted Duarte because he was not on a tenure track.

“They didn’t explain themselves, and we were left in the dark,” Duarte wrote in an email.

The couple’s lawyer wrote that after Duarte’s dismissal, Luhrmann “repeatedly encouraged Ms Karnes to leave Stanford”, which Karnes said further confirmed the retaliation.

You can read more about the case here.


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