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Harvard Rolls Out Mandatory Sexual Assault Prevention Training for Faculty, Staff

Faculty Meeting
Faculty enter University Hall for their monthly faculty meeting on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in spring 2018.

An estimated 18,000 faculty and staff across the University will take a sexual assault prevention training module starting Monday, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 and Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp wrote in an email last week.

All benefits-eligible faculty and staff must complete the 45-minute program — designed to remind Harvard’s employees about University policy and resources — by Dec. 17.

Garber and Lapp said in May that the University would mandate faculty and staff training around sexual assault prevention and response in fall 2018. Their announcement came on the heels of a year that saw the #MeToo movement hit Harvard in a big way; 18 women stepped forward to accuse prominent Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez of sexual harassment stretching back decades in early spring and the University in March barred star Economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. from setting foot in his lab while it investigated allegations of sexual harassment against him.

Central administrators and the leaders of Harvard’s individual schools have worked across the past two years to implement the 2016 recommendations of a University-wide task force on sexual assault prevention that urged mandatory trainings for students, faculty, and staff.

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Administrators debuted a similar sexual assault prevention training module for undergraduates in 2016. Though the module was not originally mandatory, 100 percent of students completed the training this fall after administrators tied program completion to course registration.

In their email to faculty and staff last week, Garber and Lapp wrote it is important to review information about sexual assault prevention and response.

“Recent events across society continue to underscore the observation that sexual and gender-based harassment remains a deeply ingrained problem,” Garber and Lapp wrote. “For our community to truly thrive, its members must feel comfortable coming forward to report harassment. That aspiration will only be realized if we all have a firm understanding of the University’s relevant policies and available resources.”

University Title IX Officer Nicole M. Merhill said the faculty and staff training module — like the student training module — details definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment, outlines University Title IX policy, and lists resources available on campus.

The faculty and staff training module, though, presents additional information about the role of a “responsible employee” at Harvard.

“If they receive a disclosure that falls under the sexual- and gender-based harassment policy, then they must share that information with a Title IX coordinator,” Merhill said. The module also explains what Title IX coordinators do with that information.

Merhill also said scenarios presented in the faculty and staff training module are meant to represent experiences those categories of Harvard affiliates are likely to undergo.

Administrators will monitor faculty and staff members' progress toward completing the module via the Harvard Training Portal. The training will only be considered successfully completed if faculty and staff receive a score of 80 percent or higher on an assessment given at the end of module.

“By establishing a common baseline of training to all faculty and staff, we will continue to expand our knowledge and understanding, and strengthen our commitment to the wellbeing of every member of our community,” Garber and Lapp wrote.

Asked whether administrators could effectively enforce completion of the training — particularly given the fact that many faculty are tenured and have total job security — Merhill said administrators “watch that data very closely" and will “make efforts to ensure that all of those individuals in fact do complete the training.”

She added Garber and Lapp have informed staff that it is “the expectation and the Corporation’s expectation that all benefits-eligible employees will complete this training.”

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at simone.chu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.

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