Sexual Harassment Complaints Decline

Fewer Undergraduates Seek Advice; Drop Not Significant, Says McKay-Smith

No formal complaints of sexual harassment against instructors, advisers or administrators were filed by students last year, according to the Faculty's annual report on sexual harassment, released this week.

However, the study found that 29 undergraduates sought advice or informal intervention in sexual harassment cases involving authority figures.

In cases involving their peers, slightly fewer undergraduates received advice and informal intervention.

One student made a formal complaint against a peer, seeking an investigation of the facts and formal disciplinary response from Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles.

But Virginia L. MacKay-Smith '78, assistant dean of the College for co-education, said the numbers do not accurately reflect the situation at Harvard because people often decide to deal with incidents privately.

According to MacKay-Smith, many more incidents go unreported.

"The drop is not significant," she said. "It's simply a report of the official activities. It does not purport to be a thorough reflection of all incidents of this nature that occur."

MacKay-Smith added that the report is one measure of the progress of the Faculty's Coordinating Committee on Sexual Harassment, but that it is better to look at the efforts the Faculty is taking to increase awareness on campus.

Knowles sends copies of the College's legislation on sexual harassment to all Faculty and teaching staff and urges all departments to discuss the issue at their meetings.

MacKay-Smith said these efforts have "had a major influence."

"We are more and more willing to say this is something that merits our attention," she said.

The numbers of reported cases dropped from 1994-95, when 36 undergraduates sought advice or informal intervention in cases involving authority figures and four made formal complaints.

Undergraduates generally reported more incidents than graduate students, faculty or staff. Faculty members did not report any incidents.