Harvard recently announced plans to roll out a new online reporting system for Title IX complaints this summer. Though specifics on the process are not yet available, it has been described as an anonymous reporting program for students who have experienced sexual or gender-based harassment.
While the specific structure and plan for the Title IX reporting system is yet to be released, we appreciate this new avenue for survivors of sexual misconduct — some of whom may prefer not to discuss in person potentially traumatic experiences — to tell their stories.
We hope the University takes into account the success and failures of similar programs at other comparable institutions. Consider Northeastern University and Princeton University. Princeton’s anonymous phone reporting system is only anonymous, rather than also confidential, meaning that reports the school receives via their channel are actionable, sometimes resulting in investigations. Northeastern, by contrast, has an anonymous and confidential reporting channel, and a “whistleblower policy,” which prevents interfering with “a good faith reporting of a suspected wrongdoing” to ensure these reports are being considered with utmost caution and respect.
We believe Harvard should especially look into emulating Northeastern’s whistleblower policy to cultivate an environment that makes sharing reports as safe and comfortable of a process as possible. Northeastern’s policy can help make students feel more open to sharing their experiences, because they do not have to fear action being taken without their consent, as their reporting system is confidential. This resource can enable the school to provide different kinds of support that may better fit the varying needs of some survivors of sexual misconduct if and when they decide to share their stories.
All of the concerns over the details of Harvard’s reporting system’s rollout speak to the larger issue of transparency in implementation. As the University designs and releases the program, it should take seriously the concerns of students and support groups, in addition to examining analogous programs at other schools. Implementation of the new system may not be perfect at first, so it is important that the University be willing to accept constructive criticism from the students the system is meant to benefit.
We also encourage the University to clearly define the differences between this and other reporting-based resources available to victims of harassment and other misconduct. Since Harvard already has in-person resources for these victims that protect confidentiality, it’s critical that students understand how their experiences may differ when using this new system — both in terms of the potential benefits, as well as the potential risks.
As a statement of intent, the announcement of this program is encouraging. Important questions as to the specifics of its implementation and the transparency of its fine-tuning as it goes into effect remain unanswered, but we are hopeful that the University will work with students to ensure that the system works as well as possible. We further hope that this new avenue will lower barriers for reporting for people who are afraid to come forward and give the University a more comprehensive picture of the scale of sexual assault on campus.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.