Junot Díaz accused of misconduct by several women
Díaz: ‘I take responsibility for my past’
Comparative Media Studies/Writing professor and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz was accused of inappropriate and abusive behavior by multiple women May 4. Writer Zinzi Clemmons first tweeted that Díaz forcibly kissed her when she was a graduate student at Columbia. Following her tweet, authors Carmen Maria Machado and Monica Byrne SM ’05 wrote that Díaz had behaved in a misogynistic and threatening manner towards them.
“As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature,” Clemmons wrote. “I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I'm far from the only one he's done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore.”
In response to Clemmons, Machado, a National Book Award finalist, tweeted about an instance when Díaz argued aggressively with her after she asked him about one of his character’s unhealthy relationships with women.
“He asked me to back up my claim with evidence,” Machado wrote. “I cited several passages from the book in front of me. He raised his voice, paced, implied I was a prude who didn’t know how to read or draw reasonable conclusions from text.”
Byrne wrote on Twitter that Díaz shouted the word “rape” in her face when she disagreed with him on a minor point at a dinner. In a separate Facebook post, she wrote, “Díaz didn’t physically assault me. But shouting the word ‘rape’ in my face is absolutely verbal sexual assault. Moreover, I was struck by the total disconnect between his public persona of a progressive literary idol and how he actually treated women.”
In a subsequent tweet, Clemmons, who was recognized as one of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35,’ wrote that she believed Díaz tried to preempt accusations like hers by writing an autobiographical piece in The New Yorker last month, revealing that he was raped as a child by an adult he trusted and detailing how the trauma continued to affect his life and troubled relationships with women.
Díaz later responded to the allegations in a statement to The New York Times through his literary agent, saying, “I take responsibility for my past. That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.”
MIT released a statement May 7. “As MIT looks into concerns shared on social media regarding Professor Diaz, we wish to make clear that we do not tolerate sexual harassment at MIT: at all times, we encourage any member of our community who has experienced or witnessed harassing behavior to report it using the resources we make available. Both accusers and the accused have rights and protections within the process we follow — and we strive to protect the privacy of all parties involved,” the statement said.
Díaz is still scheduled to teach this fall, according to SHASS Dean Melissa Nobles in an email to The Tech.
CMS/W Department Head Edward Schiappa emailed Byrne the following day, writing, “I thought I would reach out to you in my capacity as Head of Comparative Media Studies/Writing to say that we were unaware of the events that were reported yesterday prior to the tweets that came out,” according to Byrne in an email to The Tech.
The Boston Children’s Museum and the Cambridge Public Library have since cancelled their events featuring Díaz, according to the Boston Globe.