Tags: Harvard | law professors | sexual assault | policy

Harvard Law Professors Rip New Campus Sex-Assault Policy

By    |   Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:52 PM

A group of Harvard law professors voiced its strong objections to the university's new sexual misconduct policy, saying the rules are "overwhelmingly stacked against the accused" and will do more harm than good.

"Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process," wrote 28 Harvard Law School professors in an open letter posted Tuesday night on The Boston Globe's website.

The professors are responding to Harvard's decision in July to adopt a new, University-wide set of procedures intended to prevent sexual harassment.

The policy, which established a centralized office to investigate reports of sexual harassment, went into effect at the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year.

"The Harvard policy goes so far that it's pretty shocking," Harvard Law professor Janet Halley said in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR).

Halley pointed out that the policy is being implemented by a single Title IX compliance office which could be susceptible to bias because it is under pressure to demonstrate results.

"It's the charging agent like the prosecutor, it's the investigator — they're the judge, and they're the [people who hear] the appeal from all those decisions," she told NPR. "So they're not neutral. They're there to increase the number of persons held responsible."

The open letter contends Harvard has inappropriately expanded the scope of forbidden conduct by adopting a definition of sexual harassment that goes significantly beyond Title IX and Title VII law.

The resolution they seek is for the university to withdraw this sexual harassment policy and "begin the challenging project of carefully thinking through what substantive and procedural rules would best balance the complex issues involved in addressing sexual conduct" on the campus.

The university said that some believe the policies go too far, while others believe that they are insufficient, but "this type of discussion is fundamental to any vibrant academic community," according to a statement issued by Harvard.

They added: "The University is confident that the policy and procedures meet their promise of a thoughtful, fair and consistent approach to these profoundly complex and sensitive situations."

Also defending the new sexual assault policy is Our Harvard Can Do Better, a group which describes itself as "an undergraduate campaign working to end the institutional and cultural enablers of sexual violence at Harvard through survivor-centric and intersectional advocacy."

The group said the policy was the "first intermediate step we have seen from the administration to address their federally mandated obligation" to address sexual assault on campus.

They said the Globe letter "displays a callous lack of understanding of sexual violence and its effect on survivors in educational institutions."

In April, Harvard was one of 55 schools included in a list released by the Department of Education of public and private academic institutions that are under federal investigation for their handing of sexual abuse allegations made by their students, The Huffington Post reported.

In September, the university's law school hosted a screening of a 2013 documentary about the infamous case of Anita Hill and charges she made that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her.

After watching "Anita," Hill, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, and Nan Stein, senior research scientist at Wellesley’s Centers for Women, discussed the issue of sexual harassment, reports the Harvard Gazette.

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A group of Harvard law professors voiced its strong objections to the university's new sexual misconduct policy, saying the rules are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused and will do more harm than good.
Harvard, law professors, sexual assault, policy
Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:52 PM
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