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Professors Praise New FAS Sexual Harassment Procedures

Alison F. Johnson, who is leading a committee of university members to update FAS policies sexual assault, is answering questions about the recent release of the Annual Security Report by HUPD. Johnson indicated that she thinks that the reason for Harvard's high number of forcible sex responses is that the university's reporting standards are better but that it should give no reason to not tackle the issue diligently.
Alison F. Johnson, who is leading a committee of university members to update FAS policies sexual assault, is answering questions about the recent release of the Annual Security Report by HUPD. Johnson indicated that she thinks that the reason for Harvard's high number of forcible sex responses is that the university's reporting standards are better but that it should give no reason to not tackle the issue diligently.
By Karl M. Aspelund and Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writers

Professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences praised the school’s new sexual harassment procedures, saying that they clarify the boundaries between the school’s different constituencies and their respective responsibilities in responding to instances of sexual harassment.

The new procedures, released Monday, remain largely unchanged from a draft presented at December’s Faculty meeting, but include minor changes in language and an added “Frequently Asked Questions” supplement.

The finalized procedures are the result of months of work by a committee led by History professor Alison F. Johnson, who, along with the other committee members, spent last semester collecting feedback from students and FAS affiliates about the design of a new policy to address sexual and gender-based harassment.

History professor Alison F. Johnson
History professor Alison F. Johnson By Zorigoo Tugsbayar

The outcome, some professors said, is a set of procedures that make clearer expectations and obligations surrounding sexual harassment.

“If a student did come to me [about an issue of sexual harassment], then I think I’d be very much better placed now to respond,” English Department Chair W. James Simpson said. “I would be responding by sending the people who really understand the legal and emotional aspects of all this.”

Physics Department Chair Masahiro Morii agreed that the new procedures clarify the appropriate levels of conduct between all members of FAS, including undergraduates, teaching fellows, and professors. As was already the case under FAS's interim policy, which was in effect from August until earlier this week, faculty members are formally prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with undergraduates.

“I want to make sure that everybody knows what the boundaries of behavior are, and I also want to make sure that students know where to reach out, what kind of resources are available,” Morii said.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality professor Sarah S. Richardson said she was glad a central policy was in place for FAS, although she said there should always be opportunity for continued discussion and revision.

“I really feel that there has been a good process and the final policy is going to be an improvement for everyone,” she said.

Other professors said they were grateful for the work the committee did to offer recommendations for the school’s procedures.

“I thought that [Johnson] did a wonderful job in her presentation to the Faculty. It was clear, gave a sense of coherence and urgency and fairness,” Anthropology professor Arthur Kleinman said. “I was impressed, and I think it is good to have this clarified.”

Richardson said she was “pleased” with “how thorough the process has been, the open vetting of issues, how the process has been with student concerns in particular.”

For her part, Johnson, who is on leave for the spring semester, said she thinks “this is a good place to be as an institution,” though she added that FAS should still always look to discuss and possibly adapt its procedures.

“I believe we have a really good starting place,” Johnson said. “ I don't think finishing the policy  and procedures means that we’re done; it means that we have a reasonable policy and procedures in place that can help us start a conversation about guiding principles in our community.”

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at karl.aspelund@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

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FASFAS AdministrationFacultyFaculty NewsSexual AssaultTitle IX

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