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Harvard Business School has updated its Title IX training modules on sexual harassment—mandatory for all incoming first-year students—amid criticisms the trainings inadequately capture scenarios business school students might face.
The online training modules are meant to educate students on sexual harassment and related resources at the school and the University more broadly. Individual schools across Harvard have undertaken efforts in recent years to implement the recommendations of a University-wide task force on sexual assault prevention, which called for mandatory annual trainings.
School administrators made changes to the module earlier this year and allowed members of the Women’s Student Association to preview the updated version. Alexis B. Wolfer, a first-year student and the co-president of the Women’s Student Association at HBS, said she thinks the new module is an improvement but fails to distinguish appropriate behavior from harassment in the scenarios it presents.
Wolfer said the school’s diversity, particularly its large international population, necessitates training that better addresses behavior considered to fall “in the gray.”
“The problem is I think it does a poor job of telling people what’s right and wrong,” she said. “And while it might be obvious for some students and in some communities it might not need to be said, I think that at a university that has such a diverse population, really spelling out what the rules are is really important.”
Wolfer said the WSA was not involved in developing the updated modules, but that the group will continue to advocate for further changes including supplementary training.
“While I think this module is better, it is by no means no way what the WSA was hoping to see change,” she said.
Representatives from the group have met with administrators to discuss additional tweaks to the module.
HBS spokesperson Brian C. Kenny confirmed in an email that the WSA has been pushing for changes to the modules but declined to comment on the details.
“The WSA leadership met with the senior associate dean and executive director of MBA earlier this month to share some feedback they had on the current approach and some ideas for how to improve upon it,” Kenny wrote. “The ideas discussed in that meeting are still in the formative stages so it's too soon for us to share anything.”
Wolfer also led an initiative to redesign stickers in HBS bathrooms that list resources for victims of sexual assault and harassment. She said current stickers display contact information in a way that is “filled with nuances that are very difficult for an untrained eye to understand the difference between them and why under certain circumstances you would call one versus another.”
She said she is optimistic the new stickers, which will be plastered on bathroom stalls this summer, will increase reporting rates of sexual misconduct at HBS.
Wolfer said she would like to see Harvard surpass its peer institutions’ efforts to combat sexual harassment.
“I think that Harvard should also as an institution recognize its privilege and the responsibility of its privilege and be the torchbearer of these changes and not just do the status quo,” she said.
—Staff writer Grace A. Greason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Anna M. Kuritzkes contributed reporting.
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