UPDATED: March 14, 2013, at 4:25 a.m.
Federal civil rights attorney Mia Karvonides has begun work as Harvard’s first ever University-wide Title IX coordinator, Chief Diversity Officer Lisa M. Coleman wrote in an internal announcement on Tuesday.
Coleman’s email marked Harvard’s first official announcement of the name of the person chosen to fill the new post, which was created last fall to manage compliance issues related to the gender-equity legislation.
In an emailed statement Wednesday, Karvonides wrote that she plans to familiarize herself with the Title IX coordinators at Harvard’s many schools before outlining specific priorities for compliance activities.
“First, I’d like to meet my counterparts at the school level and gain an understanding of how various parts of the University are currently coordinating compliance efforts,” she wrote.
Before coming to Harvard, Karvonides worked at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, enforcing many of the same policies that she will oversee as the University’s Title IX officer. She has also worked as an attorney for the Vermont Agency of Education and as an administrator at Bowdoin College.
Barbara Crippen, civil rights coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Education who previously worked with Karvonides, said she believes Karvonides’s background and interests will serve her well at Harvard. At the Agency, Karvonides specialized in disability law but showed a particular aptitude for training school administrators on sexual assault issues, she said.
“She’s bright, she was a good lawyer, but I also thought her heart was more on the administrative side of things,” Crippen said.
At Harvard, Karvonides will seek to ensure that the University’s numerous schools and departments comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which forbids discrimination based on sex in “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Although the legislation is widely known for increasing the participation of women in high school and collegiate sports, it also treats sexual harassment as a form of discrimination.
The sexual assault implications of Title IX have made headlines in recent months, as the OCR continues to pressure the University and its peers to reevaluate the way they handle disciplinary cases related to sexual assault. The OCR is currently investigating an outstanding Title IX complaint against Harvard Law School’s sexual assault policies, and the University has repeatedly faced pressure to adopt a set of regulatory guidelines released by the OCR in an April 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter.
Karvonides will also work with other officials to oversee the University’s compliance with the Violence Against Women Act, recently reauthorized by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 7. The new version of the bill extends the federal regulation of sexual assault disciplinary proceedings on college campuses, and may require Harvard to change the way it processes sexual harassment complaints. University spokesperson Tania M. deLuzuriaga confirmed that Karvonides will oversee sexual assault policies related to VAWA when they overlap with Title IX compliance.
According to the regulatory guidelines enforced by the OCR, any school receiving federal funding must “designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities” under Title IX. Universities are also required to notify all “students and employees of the name, office address and telephone number” of the compliance officer.
—Staff writer Jared T. Lucky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jared_lucky.
This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification and correction:
CLARIFICATION: March 18, 2013
An earlier version of this article stated that Mia Karvonides, the new University-wide Title IX coordinator, will oversee Harvard's compliance with the Violence Against Women Act. To clarify, Karvonides will work with other officials to direct Harvard's compliance with the law.
CORRECTION: March 19, 2013
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Karvonides will outline priorities for enforcement and oversee sexual assault policies mandated by the Violence Against Women Act where they pertain to Title IX enforcement. In fact, Karvonides will direct compliance activities in these areas.