Dr. Bing Wang, a GSD associate professor, files lawsuit against Harvard, MRE director Jerold Kayden, and dean Sarah Whiting

A Harvard GSD associate professor, Dr. Bing Wang, recently filed a lawsuit against Jerold Kayden, the GSD’s master in real estate (MRE) program director, and dean Sarah Whiting. A lawyer representing Dr. Wang and a Harvard spokesperson told AN that neither party could comment on the lawsuit at this time.

The lawsuit, filed on March 15 in Middlesex Superior Court, alleged that professor Kayden and dean Whiting have “discriminated against Dr. Wang based on her race, ancestry, national origin, and gender.” It also alleged that Kayden and Whiting subjected Dr. Wang to “pervasive discrimination and retaliation.” Moreover, the suit alleged that Pamela Balwdin, Title IX resource coordinator for GSD faculty, “took no steps to address, correct, or investigate the reported discriminatory conduct” which she was required to do by law. GSD professor Preston Scott Cohen was also named in the lawsuit, but no charges were brought against him. 

In October 2023, after Kayden was made aware of the allegations, the court document stated that he confronted Dr. Wang, telling her, “You barked up the wrong tree. If you continue doing this to me, I will go after you. I don’t want that to happen to you, Bing.” As a result of discrimination and bullying, Dr. Wang claimed that she will suffer lost wages, benefits, reputational harm, emotional distress; and her academic and professional career will be damaged.

Thus, on March 15, Dr. Wang brought six counts against Harvard, Kayden, and Whiting (“All Defendants”). Count I against All Defendants alleged Race, Ancestry, and National Origin Discrimination; Count II against All Defendants alleged Gender Discrimination; Count III against All Defendants alleged Retaliation; Count IV against Harvard alleged Failure to Investigate; Count V against Kayden and Whiting alleged Interference with Rights; and Count VI against Whiting alleged Aiding and Abetting.

interior of Harvard GSD building
The trays at Gund Hall (Bobak Ha’Eri/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0 DEED)

Dr. Wang completed her PhD at Harvard in 2004. Between 2005 and 2012, she was a lecturer in the GSD’s urban planning and design program; and between 2010 and 2012, she served as head of the GSD’s real estate concentration in the master of design studies program. 

Throughout her tenure at the GSD, professor Kayden “bullied and discriminated” against Dr. Wang, the plaintiff alleged. Dr. Wang recalled one instance in 2008 when she had a meeting with professor Kayden to discuss her reappointment: Kayden “leaned back in his chair with his feet crossed on his desk throughout the entire meeting.” The court document noted that Kayden’s “posture was disrespectful and dismissive of Dr. Wang” in an important meeting for her career prospects.

Then in 2012, when Dr. Wang was in the initial appointment process as an associate professor, Kayden made an “unusual suggestion” to GSD’s faculty affairs office. That year, Kayden suggested that the administration should “survey its students” to determine whether or not Dr. Wang should be appointed. Such an action had never been taken for faculty appointments and constituted a violation of relevant policy. In turn, Dr. Wang alleged that Kayden’s proposal was discriminatory. Afterwards, Kayden opposed Dr. Wang’s promotion to senior faculty.

The lawsuit also claims that Kayden has consistently interfered in Dr. Wang’s course offerings. For ten years, Dr. Wang taught a popular course titled Real Estate and City Making in China. In November 2022, Kayden told Dr. Wang that he intended on ending the course because he “did not think anyone ‘would be interested in China or [your] course.’” (Brackets in the original.)

Then in February 2023, Kayden told Dr. Wang she would be joined by three “American male colleagues” as instructors for a separate program, International Real Estate and Urban Development. One of those instructors was Preston Scott Cohen, an individual which Dr. Wang told Kayden “she has an uneasy professional relationship” with. In turn, Kayden made “a highly inappropriate remark.” He asked Dr. Wang “if she would be able to forgive a spouse for betraying her and said that he did not think he could do so himself.” The lawsuit claims Kayden had intimated that “Dr. Wang was, in essence, cheating on Professor Cohen.”

Harvard GSD
Gund Hall (Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 DEED)

On February 10, 2023, Dr. Wang scheduled a meeting with Pamela Baldwin, assistant dean for faculty affairs at GSD and Title IX resource coordinator. It was then when Dr. Wang reported she had been “discriminated against and bullied” by senior faculty, without naming Kayden by name. She claimed that senior faculty members were “biased against her because she is an Asian woman.” Despite the claims, “Assistant Dean Baldwin took no steps to address, correct, or investigate the reported discriminatory conduct, as required by law,” the lawsuit claimed.

On September 13, 2023, Dr. Wang met again with dean Sarah Whiting after an initial meeting on August 29. There, Dr. Wang reported to Whiting that she had “encountered discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization from Professor Kayden for years.” In response, “Dean Whiting dismissed Dr. Wang’s concerns,” the lawsuit said, “questioning how Professor Kayden could discriminate against Dr. Wang as an Asian woman when he worked well with another Asian faculty member.” Dr. Wang responded by saying that Kayden’s “ability to work with one Asian woman did not preclude him from discriminating against her.”

In a meeting the following day on September 14, 2023, Pamela Baldwin was “openly dismissive” of Dr. Wang’s claims, the court document continued. Baldwin told Dr. Wang that Kayden is in a “very important and respectable position.” 

On October 2, 2023, Dr. Wang sent Whiting a letter formally requesting a review and explaining that “she believed she was being discriminated against because she is an Asian woman.” The following day was when Kayden confronted Dr. Wang, telling her, “If you continue doing this to me, I will go after you.” Dr. Wang was told that her request for a review had been denied, and that she would no longer have a position at the GSD after June 2025.

The series of allegations resulted in the lawsuit filed in Massachusetts on March 15. Now, Dr. Wang is suing for damages.

AN will continue to monitor this story.

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