Harvard Downplays Title IX Changes

Affirmative Action Policy Would Remain Intact

Reagan administration efforts to repeal federal rules banning sexual discrimination in the employment practices of colleges receiving government aid will not affect Harvard's policy of "continued affirmative action." University officials said yesterday.

The officials added, however, that proposed revisions in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 could prompt Harvard to change procedures used to assess and report programs designed to prevent discrimination.

"Some of the statistics and reports we now use don't make much sense and are not leading to greater employment of women." Dariei Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, said. "Those are the policies that could conceivably change," he added.

In a draft of the proposed changes in federal rules. Secretary of Education T.H. Bell has asked the Justice Department for permission to revoke sex discrimination guidelines covering employees, a move that is only one aspect of the administration's overall deregulation strategy.

Bell's proposal would reverse a government position held since 1975 that Title IX forbids sex discrimination against staff members and faculty as well as students at schools and colleges that receive federal aid. Justice Department attorneys have presented the previous interpretation in a case pending before the United States Supreme Court, saying the federal code "unambiguously prohibits sex discrimination against employees."


Education Department spokesmen contradicted that position this week, arguing that Title IX was designed to cover only students, not employees. They added that the changes will not affect "substantive protection" against sex discrimination.

Justice Department spokesmen declined to comment on Bell's request.

NOW Not Happy

Despite the government's reassurances, leaders of various women's groups have denounced the proposed changes as the first indication that the administration will try to eliminate Title IX altogether. "We suspect there is much more in the works, including the dismantling of the entire code." Ann Simon, a staff attorney for the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the National Organization of Women (NOW), said yesterday.

No matter what the federal government does. Harvard will not abandon its commitment to an active affirmative action policy for women. Steiner said. Given the opportunity, though, the University might scale back some reporting procedures it deemed unnecessary or inaccurate, he said.

Phyllis Keller, dean for academic planning, added that Harvard officials have criticized some of those procedures since the early 1970s. "We may move toward something more related to the real world," she said.

Keller singled out a formula used to compute whether schools are "underutilizing" women as one aspect of the existing federal code administrators in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have challenged.

A Faculty report released last spring recommended that departments, with especially small numbers of women instructors exert "a special effort" to attract "the largest possible number of the strongest women candidates."

Bay with the Bath Water

Simon said that if any aspect of the federal code is rescinded, schools like Harvard might be encouraged to ease their efforts to maintain affirmative action programs. "What we fear is throwing the baby out with the bath water," Simon said. "If they want to redesign reporting forms, they should do that, not withdraw substantive guarantees of federal supervision."

Violation of Title IX provisions theoretically could result in a cutoff of all federal aid, though that penalty has never been used. About $100 million or 25 per cent, of Harvard's total income in the last fiscal year came from the government

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