A Harvard Official Is Under Fire after a Confrontation in a Viral Video

Theresa Lund, executive director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, sparred with a neighbor over noise and asked "Are you in one of the affordable units?"

Photo via Facebook/Alyson Laliberte

Harvard higher-up Theresa Lund is facing a hail of criticism over a viral video that shows her confronting a neighbor and her young daughter.

The clip shows a woman—since identified as Lund, who is the executive director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative—arguing with Cambridge resident Alyson Laliberte about noise she and her daughter were apparently making outside their apartment complex near the Harvard campus. According to Laliberte, who posted video of the encounter on Facebook, Lund told her that her children were trying to sleep and asked her to leave the area.

When Laliberte protests, saying she and her daughter had every right to play on the street on a beautiful day in mid-afternoon, Lund continues to harass Laliberte, tells her daughter her mom “is not being nice,” and asks condescendingly if her family lived in affordable housing. “Are you one of the affordable units?” she asks in the video, which has since been viewed over 1 million times. “Or are you one of the Harvard units?”

Laliberte, who is white, wrote that she felt the incident was racially motivated. “It was totally discriminating and racist of her.. or maybe it was because my daughter is biracial who knows,” she wrote, adding that she did not know who Lund was. “[T]he fact that she thinks she has some kind of authority over me is crazy!” She added that she has lived in the building for 15 years without neighborly issues.

She also referred to Lund as “another Permit Patty,” in reference to the nickname given to a woman featured in another viral video after calling the police on black teenagers selling water on a San Francisco sidewalk. That case was one of many over the past several weeks that have gained attention online and were seen as examples of white neighbors being unduly concerned about the presence of people of color in their neighborhood, often involving the police. In this particular incident, the police were not called.

Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Her biography on the HHI’s website was inaccessible Monday afternoon, but an archived version indicates she is a former managing director in the Office of the Dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and senior associate director with the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

In a statement Monday evening to the Boston Globe, Lund apologized for her actions, saying she was “terribly sorry” and that her behavior was “inappropriate and wrong.”