Another Voice On Harassment

A report discussing sexual harassment, issued last week by an unusual joint committee of Harvard Overseers and Radcliffe Trustees, struck a middle ground between urging all of the broad policy reforms members of the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) had lobbied for, and firmly supporting the status quo.

The report of the Harvard-Radcliffe Special Committee to Examine and Review the Role and Status of Women Undergraduates broadly supports current policies on sexual harassment, but urges the University to step up publicity of the issue generally, and to release aggregate figures on cases handled in a given year.

Copies of the report, sections of which were obtained by The Crimson, were sent to all Overseers and Trustees and were distributed to the Faculty Council before their meeting this week, held to discuss the harassment issue.

The committee, which studied the issue for several months before making its report, accepted the definition of sexual harassment given in this year's student handbook as appropriate. It also found that current advice and counseling for harassment victims is adequate.

But the report also found that publicity of sexual harassment as an issue is not now adequate. It urges the University to present the community with evidence that it takes action against offenders, and to release aggregate annual figures on the number of complaints handled and their disposition, in order to dispel unfounded rumors about numbers of cases.


In stating specifically that the procedures now in place for disciplining offenders are satisfactory the report contradicts the view of some RUS members who have urged the University to adopt a more explicit policy more clearly describing what actions constitute sexual harassment, and what kind of punishment may result.

Sexual harassment as currently listed in the Handbook for Students, is only loosely defined as "a wide range of behavior. "It goes on to say that "the fundamental element is the unwelcome attention by an instructor or other officer who is in a position to determine a student's grade or otherwise affect the student's academic or professional future."

Proponents of a reform in policy have urged an explicit statement, approved by the Faculty Council, that would state in stronger terms what sort of actions would not be tolerated and what sort of punishments might follow.

The committee that produced the report is unusual in that it includes Harvard Overseers and Radcliffe Trustees. Both groups are comprised of influential alumni and donors and while their recommendations on policy matters are not binding, they are traditionally accorded significant weight by administrators and the Corporation.


The Faculty Council this week spent almost two hours discussing the sexual harassment issue, and will continue the discussion at its next meeting in two weeks. That meeting which began with distribution of the committee report consisted of what John R. Marquand secretary of the Faculty Council called "a very wide-ranging discussion. No conclusion were reached at the meeting he added.

The report also contained a section on so called "gender harassment," by which it means discriminators action to ward women. The report expressed less satisfaction with current University policy on this score calling for a stronger stand against derogatory remarks against women and against the showing of material in a classroom setting that might be offensive to women.

The report went on to urge that a person of authority in the University be given the explicit responsibility of making statements on the standards the University wishes to set on the issue.