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FAS Adopts Interim Sexual Harassment Policy to Comply With Federal Title IX Updates

University Hall, which sits at the center of Harvard Yard, is home to many administrative offices, including those of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard College.
University Hall, which sits at the center of Harvard Yard, is home to many administrative offices, including those of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard College. By Aiyana G. White
By Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences has adopted new interim policies on sexual and gender-based harassment to comply with the U.S. Department of Education’s new Title IX regulations, FAS Dean Claudine Gay announced in a Monday morning email to FAS affiliates.

Gay plans to form a committee “in the coming weeks” to review FAS’s policy and work towards developing a long-term version, she wrote in the email. The group will collect input from the FAS affiliates on the topic.

The Department of Education released its new, long-awaited Title IX changes in May. Among other updates, the new Title IX rule narrowed the definition of sexual misconduct to “unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive”; previous Obama-era guidance defined sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” that includes “requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”

In August, the University adopted two interim policies to address sexual harassment and misconduct in response to the federal changes — one to hew to the new federal guidelines, and the other to address behavior that falls outside those guidelines’ jurisdiction. Conduct prohibited under the University’s previous policy will continue to be prohibited under the two new interim policies.

Under both policies, formal complaints are first investigated by the Office of Dispute Resolution. However, under the Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy complaints will additionally proceed to a hearing panel composed of trained experts in and outside Harvard.

Both policies share the same definition of consent as voluntary agreement that may be communicated verbally or by actions, use the preponderance of evidence standard, prohibit retaliation, and require responsible employees to share information with a Title IX official upon learning of concerns of sexual harassment or misconduct.

As was the case before the federal rollout, the FAS will both adhere to the new University policies and supplement them with its own interim policy, designed “to suit the Faculty’s needs and goals,” according to Gay.

The FAS’s former policies spanned 37 pages in length, detailing specific procedures for filing, investigating, and resolving sexual misconduct complaints, depending on whether they are against students, faculty, or staff. The FAS’s new interim policies, meanwhile, are condensed to 11 pages, deferring to University policies in the cases of allegations against faculty and staff while continuing to involve the Administrative Board in the case of allegations against students.

“Having these interim policies in place affords us the time to undertake a more deliberate and collaborative approach to developing a new, longer-term FAS policy,” Gay wrote.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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