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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
The announcement last night of Professor of Government Douglas A. Hibbs Jr.'s resignation comes 18 months after another case of alleged sexual harassment in the Government Department last catapulted the issue to the forefront of campus debase. That incident ultimately led to the revision of Faculty guidelines for handling sexual harassment claims.
Reports in the fall of 1983 that then-Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky had disciplined Professor of Government Jorge I. Dominguez for sexual misconduct Ignited a debate that grew in intensity through the academic year.
The later release of official Harvard survey results which suggested widespread incidence of harassment on campus fanned the controversy. It did not subside until last May's Faculty decision adopting revisions to its then-existing system, established in 1978, for processing victims' complaints.
Involved Junior Faculty Member
In September of 1983, Rosovsky's reported censure of Dominguez received wide publicity.
Dominguez, Harvard's leading expert in Latin American politics, was accused of harassing a junior faculty member in the Government Department. After finding merit in the assistant professor's formal grievance, Rosovsky reportedly removed Dominguez from his position as chairman of an interdisciplinary committee on Latin American studies.
Dominguez declined at the time to comment on the charges of harassment.
During his investigation of the complaint, Rosovsky also learned that Dominguez had made improper sexual advances toward a graduate student, sources told The Crimson. The newspaper obtained the text of a letter to the graduate student in which Rosovsky expressed regret about Dominguez's "abuse of authority."
Following published accounts of the professor's conduct, several students withdrew from his classes in protest.
Dominguez was at least the third professor accused of sexual misconduct in recent years. In December 1979 according to published reports, Professor of Government Martin L. Kilson was reprimanded for making advances towards a female member of the Class of 1983. And in 1982, Rosovsky wrote a letter admonishing visiting professor and prominent poet Derek Walcott who allegedly harassed a female freshman in the spring of 1982.
After widespread publicity about the case, the Administrative Board later changed the woman's grade in Walcott's course from a "C" to a "pass."
Unprecedented Level of Concern
While each of the cases attracted attention, the Dominguez case generated an unprecedented level of concern among students and faculty. Most of all, the case focused serutiny on the problem of sexual harassment and the manner in which the University dealt with it.
Rosovsky drew sharp criticism from some quarters, from both faculty and students, for his refusal to make public the details of his punitive action. They alleged that the dean's action fostered the appearance of tolerance for professors' misconduct.
In October 1983, less than a month after the initial reports about Dominguez officials released the results of a University wide survey conducted the previous spring suggesting that that incident was merely the tip of a much larger iceberg. More than one all female respondents reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at Harvard by individuals in positions of authority.
A defined by the questionnaire, harassment en-compassed behavior ranging from unwanted sexually suggestive looks or gestures to attempted rape.
Female junior faculty were the category of respondents reporting the most incidents of harassment. Forty-nine percent said they had experienced harassment; 17 percent cited explicit verbal or physical advances.
A report released with the survey results provided detailed accounts of several students' experiences. Those accounts included the story of a graduate student who slept with her academic adviser when he threatened her to "go to bed [with him] or else."
One of the study's more dramatic finding was the fact that almost none of the self-reported victors sought recourse through the University.
The overall survey results combined with the revelation about the Dominguez case, catalyzed a broad based movement calling for official scrutiny of the sexual harassment issue.
In the wake of the Dominguez case, professors in the Government Department unanimously endorsed a resolution condemning sexual harassment and pledging to combat it.
The faculty of the department also established its own committee on sexual harassment in September 1983. The four-member panel in December 1983 recommended the appointment of in house counselors to advise students and staff facing sexual pressures within the department.
Following the lead of the Government faculty, the Undergraduate October 1983 unanimously voted to establish an ad hoc committee on sexual harassment. The council later joined forces with the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS), calling for the appointment of a student faculty committee to examine the issue.
As pressure for administrative action mounted Assistant Dean of the Faculty Phyllis Keller then Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Sidney Verba '53 prepared a Faculty Policy statements and new procedural guidelines for acting on charges of harassment.
Verbs and Keller presented their proposals in early February 1984, drawing mixed reviews in an emotionally charged open forum Debate centered on their recommendation that the Faculty establish a central office with the sole function of supervising the grievance process.
Opponents of the plan argued that the creation of a special harassment office would blow the problem cut of proportion Advocates of the proposal said that only an official administrative arm could give weight and credibility to the new procedures.
With the issue nearing resolution in the spring of 1984, more than 1000 students signed an RUS petition backing the proposed central office.
Despite that show of support, the Faculty ultimately scrapped plans to add a new branch to the University bureacracy. The policy adopted by the Faculty in May 1984 incorporated few major changes to the 1978 guidelines. While the new system placed added emphasis on informal channels for seeking advice and resolving conflicts, it mainly elaborated on existing procedures employing a network of counselors and investigators to pursue harassment complaints.
Under the revised procedures, students and faculty may call matters involving sexual harassment to the attention of designated University officials. For undergraduates, these officers include senior tutors, senior advisors, masters, and Assistant Dean of the College Marlyn M. Lewis '70.
These officials advise victims of their options and may help them pursue informal solutions.
When formal complaints are filed, an investigating officer is assigned to study the case, which ultimately may be decided by the Dean of the Faculty, who officially has ultimate control over the handling of harassment allegations.
Definition of Harassment
According to the University-published "Handbook for Students," sexual harassment is defined as "unwanted sexual behavior, such as physical contact or verbal comments or suggestions, which adversely affects the working or learning environment of an individual."
Federal district court rulings have found that sexual harassment constitutes discrimination under Title IX and Title VII, according to a November 1, 1982. Radcliffe Union of Students letter to Rosovsky. Colleges and universities--which fall under the jurisdiction of the laws because they receive various forms of federal aid--therefore must take all steps within their power to protect their students and faculty from harassment.
University officers found guilty of misconduct may be required to leave Harvard, Nancy S. Reinhardt, assistant dean for student affairs at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), said yesterday.
In addition, students found to have been victimized by harassment can benefit from a variety of corrective measures. According to the handbook, grievance officers can arrange for students to change courses and instructors.
The handbook also states, "The Administrative Board considers students' petitions for changes of grading status (that is, from letter-graded to pass fail) and petitions for retroactive withdrawals from courses."
Complaints Are Rarely Pursued
Despite the existence of an elaborate grievance system, few students pursue formal complaints, officials involved in the grievance process said yesterday.
Lewis said that no undergraduate has filed a formal grievance against a Harvard officer in the last six months. She added that about 20 student including one male, informally discussed potential harassment problems with her during the fall semester.
Retnhardt, who handles graduate student complaints, said that she hear an average of one or two problems each month. But she said she knows of no format complaint filed by a graduate student this year. "Most complaint can be resolved through informal discussion," she added.
Keller, one of the officials designated as responsible for pursuing allegations by Faculty members, declined to speak to The Crimson yesterday. Nancy Maull, the other official specifically responsible for handling complaints by Faculty members, declined to comment as well.
Both Lewis and Reinhardt emphasized that students can discuss sexual harassment issues on an informal basis without committing themselves to official action.
Nevertheless, Reinhardt said she feels some students may decide not to seek formal recourse because they are afraid of repercussions or loss of privacy.
According to statistics released by the College last year, more than 84 undergraduates made informal allegations of sexual harassment by Harvard officers during the 1982-83 academic year. Not one submitted formal charge.
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