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Law Students Form Title IX Discussion Group

By Annie E. Schugart, Contributing Writer

Several students at Harvard Law School have organized a new advocacy group to promote discussion about sexual assault and the federal anti-sex discrimination law Title IX.

The group, called “Harvard Talks Title IX” or “HTT9,” was born out of discussion this fall in two courses taught by law professor Charles R. Nesson ’60. Nesson surveyed his students earlier this semester to identify what topic they found most difficult to discuss—the “elephant in the room,” as he described it—and the top response was gender discrimination and equality. Several of his students took the initiative to create the group to promote conversation on that issue.

For now, student members are advancing conversation about sexual assault and Title IX online, primarily over Loomio, a discussion website. The group has applied to become a recognized student group but has not yet received formal approval, according to Nesson, who is the group’s faculty advisor.

Several student members of the group declined to comment on the record for this story.

The group’s formation comes amid broader discussion about sexual assault and Title IX compliance at the Law School and Harvard more generally. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating the Law School to determine whether its sexual assault policies adhere to Title IX.

Harvard Talks Title IX, for its part, has yet to decide what concrete actions it will take going forward, but according to the group’s forum on Loomio, members have discussed conducting a sexual assault climate survey similar to MIT’s and inviting President Barack Obama or First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at HLS.

Meanwhile, students continue to converse with each other online via Loomio. Those discussions have addressed topics such as affirmative consent, a standard that Harvard’s new University-wide Title IX policy does not explicitly include.

“The major issue that we’ve debated, and are still deliberating, is whether affirmative consent is a preferable standard to guide behavior to unwelcome conduct,” Nesson said. “That’s a very real, concrete question.” Nesson said he hopes to encourage even more of this discussion going forward.

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Student GroupsStudent LifeHarvard Law SchoolUniversityUniversity NewsSexual Assault