121 Students Disclosed Potential Sexual Harassment to College's Title IX Coordinators Last Year

Harvard College’s Title IX coordinators received 121 disclosures of incidents of potential sexual harassment last academic year, a nearly four-fold increase since the 2013-2014 school year, according to the University Title IX Office’s annual report.

Only five undergraduates who disclosed potential sexual harassment to Title IX coordinators filed a formal complaint last academic year with the Office of Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution. The “vast majority” of students across the University who made disclosures instead opted to pursue interim measures, which range from extensions on course work to leaves of absence. More students from the College disclosed potential sexual harassment to their Title IX coordinators than students from Harvard’s other schools.

Sexual Harassment Policy Meeting
Members of the Harvard community watch as Mia Karvonides, Harvard's Title IX officer, speaks about Harvard's new sexual harassment policy and procedure in 2014.

Sixty-two percent of investigations into student cases between 2014 and 2016 did not find that a violation of the University’s sexual assault and harassment policy had occurred. In total, ODR has received 53 formal sexual harassment complaints since the office opened in September 2014.

“You look at what’s happening with the disclosures to the Title IX coordinators—that’s the larger universe. What we see in terms of formal complaints is really more like the tip of the iceberg,” Mia Karvonides, Harvard’s Title IX Officer, said in an interview Tuesday.

The Title IX Office released these statistics, among others, in its first-ever annual report Tuesday. The report, sent to a variety of administrators and student leaders in an email Tuesday evening, provides data about sexual harassment reporting on campus dating back to 2013-2014, when Karvonides became Harvard’s first central Title IX Officer. The report aims to educate Harvard affiliates about the University’s Title IX policies. Seventy-one percent of respondents to a 2015 University-wide survey said they were not at all or only a little bit knowledgeable about what happens when a student reports an incident of sexual assault or misconduct.

“I see this as the first of many many annual reports,” Karvonides said. “As our case numbers continue to grow I see opportunity to bring out more and more data while protecting the privacy of those people.”

In the 2015-2016 academic year, the office received 26 complaints, compared to 15 in the 2014-2015 school year—“an almost 60 percent increase.” By the end of last academic year, ODR had received 41 complaints, per the report.

Of the 41 complaints ODR had received at the end of last academic year, “approximately half of the complaints were resolved before progressing to a full investigation” because some complaints were settled through informal resolutions and and others ended after “administrative closure.”

Karvonides said that an ODR investigator will review a complaint before beginning an investigation. If the investigator decides that the complaint’s allegations, even if they were true, would not constitute a violation of Harvard’s Title IX policy, they will close the case after the initial review.

“Ultimately if it’s determined that the information as presented would not be a violation, then it’s administratively closed, which I think is the appropriate thing to do for all involved,” Karvonides said.

Only three of the cases that progressed to a full investigation between the 2013-2014 academic year and the 2015-2016 academic year did not feature parties who had “engaged in a dating/romantic relationship or friendship prior to the incident.”

Sixty-nine percent of ODR cases featured a female complainant and a male respondent. Eight percent featured a male complainant and a male respondent, and 8 percent featured a female complainant and a female respondent.

Karvonides said the increased number of disclosures is a key sign of progress.

“At the end of the day with sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, the fact that it is historically underreported—this has got to be our priority is to look for indicators that people are feeling more comfortable coming forward and availing themselves with support,” Karvonides said.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at andy.duehren@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

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