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‘Sidewalk Susie:’ Harvard University staffer apologizes for asking bi-racial family if they live 'in one of the affordable units’

Elise Solé
A Harvard University staffer has apologized for confronting a woman and her bi-racial child for playing outside their neighboring homes. (Photo: Facebook/Alyson Laliberte)

A “discriminating and racist” Harvard University staffer is apologizing after video footage caught her confronting a mother and her toddler for playing outside their own home.  

“I want to be accountable for my actions in a situation where I fell far short of my values and what I expect of myself,” Theresa Lund, executive director of the Harvard University Humanitarian Initiative, wrote in an email to the Boston Globe Monday. “This clearly wasn’t my best moment, and I have work to do to more consistently be my best self.”

Lund added that she was “terribly sorry” for the “inappropriate and wrong” incident. Her LinkedIn page and her Harvard profile have also been deleted, per the paper. 

On Saturday, a woman named Alyson Laliberte shared a Facebook video of her interaction with Lund, shot outside the women’s neighboring homes in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

“Y’all here is another Permit Patty trying to kick me off my own property because she’s having a hard time getting her kids to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday,” Laliberte captioned the July 14th video that received 9K views, 5.5K comments, and 16K shares.

She continued, “I’m outside enjoying the afternoon with my daughter when this woman came downstairs and asked me if I would move so her kids can nap. Mind you it’s midday and we weren’t even being loud at all drawing with chalk. She followed me around and harassed me trying to get my information and apartment number as if she had a right to know. When I wouldn’t tell her she proceeded to ask me if I lived in the ‘affordable apartments’ of the building for Cambridge residents or if I lived in one of the Harvard owned apartments (which is all the same building anyways).”


Y’all here is another Permit Patty trying to kick me off my own property because she’s having a hard time getting her kids to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday. I’m outside enjoying the afternoon with my daughter when this women came downstairs and asked me if I would move so her kids can nap. Mind you it’s mid day and we weren’t even being loud at all drawing with chalk. She followed me around and harassed me trying to get my information and apartment number as if she had a right to know. When I wouldn’t tell her she proceeded to ask me if I lived in the “affordable apartments” of the building for Cambridge residents or if I lived in one of the Harvard owned apartments (which is all the same building anyways). It was totally discriminating and racist of her.. or maybe it was because my daughter is biracial who knows. I have no idea who this woman is and the fact that she thinks she has some kind of authority over me is crazy! She wanted to know what apartment number I lived at so she can yell outside my window to see if I like it (real mature) as you hear her say in the video. This woman’s house is no bigger than mine even if she lives in one of the apartments that are owned by Harvard. Despite color, where I live, how much money I have she will be buried 6 feet under just like me… Why do people think they are literally better than others? Why does she think she has a right to make us move? If she really did not want to be disturbed she would own a one family house instead of deciding on moving in to a condominium with a bunch of neighbors. I’ve lived in this complex for 15 years. Not one other person complained about my daughter and I. I have no idea who this woman is but if someone knows her please tag her and share this if you agree!!!!

Posted by Alyson Laliberte on Saturday, July 14, 2018

Laliberte added, “It was totally discriminating and racist of her…or maybe it was because my daughter is biracial who knows. I have no idea who this woman is and the fact that she thinks she has some kind of authority over me is crazy! She wanted to know what apartment number I lived at so she can yell outside my window to see if I like it (real mature) as you hear her say in the video. This woman’s house is no bigger than mine even if she lives in one of the apartments that are owned by Harvard. Despite color, where I live, how much money I have she will be buried 6 feet under just like me… Why do people think they are literally better than others? Why does she think she has a right to make us move? If she really did not want to be disturbed she would own a one family house instead of deciding on moving into a condominium with a bunch of neighbors. I’ve lived in this complex for 15 years. Not one other person complained about my daughter and I.”

In the video, Lund, wearing a purple shirt, denies swearing at Laliberte. “I didn’t swear. You heard me wrong,” she says, adding, “You’re lying. I’m going to sit right here with you.”

She then says to Laliberte’s 3-year-old, “You’re a sweetheart. I’m sorry [we’re arguing] with your mommy, she’s not being very nice.”

Laliberte responds, “Are you just mad because I won’t get off my own property? I think that’s why you’re mad right now…go back up to your kids. Why are you sitting here with me?”


Posted by Alyson Laliberte on Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lund responds, “I’m sitting here because you’re preventing my children from sleeping. Would you like me to do that to you?”

“Who is even watching your kids right now?” asks Laliberte to which Lund replies, “Are you one of the affordable units? Or are you one of the Harvard units?”

When Laliberte refuses to give Lund her personal information, she replies, “I will come outside your window and scream. You’re outside mine.”

Using the phrases “Sidewalk Susie” and “Naptime Nancy,” social media ridiculed Lund’s position as an advocate for human rights. 




Lund, Laliberte, and a representative of Harvard University did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.

In a post that appears deleted, Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, wrote, “Theresa Lund is a principled and ethical leader and these posts are taken out of context. She works tirelessly to advance human rights and equity, both nationally and globally. This exchange does not represent who she is, nor who we are as an organization.”  


According to the Globe, Lund also issued a Facebook apology stating she “should not have addressed [Laliberte’s] daughter, and there was no reason for me to ask what type of unit she lives in.” She also said, “I offered my sincere apology to her, her mother, and her daughter in person [Sunday] morning. I love our community and am committed to engaging in dialogue and actions about how to make it more welcoming and pleasant for all of us to live in together.”

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