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Title IX Office Creates Student Liaison Program

Massachusetts Hall houses the offices of the University President.
Massachusetts Hall houses the offices of the University President. By Megan M. Ross
By Jonah S. Berger and Jamie D. Halper, Crimson Staff Writers

The University’s Title IX office will form a student liaison committee to work with a newly hired education program manager in an effort to better educate students about its policies and resources.

In their back-to-school email, Undergraduate Council leaders Catherine L. Zhang '19 and Nicholas D. Boucher '19 invited students to join the committee, which will likely consist of one to two students from each of Harvard’s schools, according to Title IX Officer Nicole M. Merhill.

Harvard’s Title IX Office provides resources and education about the federal anti-discrimination law that deals with sexual misconduct on college campuses. Merhill, who oversees the University's Title IX Office — which does not conduct formal investigations — said central administrators created the new committee to better adapt programs to students across Harvard’s schools.

“The role is to have a collaborative process to work with students across the University — so we have representation from each of our schools — to help us better understand how we can meet the needs of the community,” Merhill said.

Several student activism groups have called for improvements to Title IX training in recent years. In addition to the new committee, the College rolled out a new, mandatory online training module this fall tied to course registration.

The committee’s charge will be multipronged. According to an outline of the committee’s duties, members will be tasked with identifying areas where students need clarification of policies and resources, supporting “program evaluation” efforts, working on sexual harassment prevention initiatives, and serving as “informal ambassadors” for their respective schools.

The committee will be overseen by Rachel A. DiBella, the office’s newly appointed education programs director, who started her work this summer. DiBella said the participants will have significant latitude over the committee’s direction.

“We’ve deliberately, I think, kept things open so that those who do join the liaison committees will have an opportunity to carve out more specific outcomes together as a group,” she said.

The office also plans to create separate liaison committees for faculty and staff, according to Merhill.

Zhang said she has met with Merhill and DiBella about the program and that it is “super important” to solicit student input on Title IX education.

“A lot of where this came from was that there was no central group to bridge undergraduate, and graduate, and professional convey students’ thoughts to the Title IX central office, and we really wanted to bridge that gap,” she said.

Merhill said the student committee can probably begin meeting in October. Applications for College students interested in serving as liaisons are due Sept. 21.

For those not selected to serve on the committee, however, Merhill said there are other opportunities for involvement with the Title IX Office, like bystander intervention training.

“We have so many projects coming up this year,” she said. “If we have students who are interested in being involved, there are so many options.”

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

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