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Harvard mandates harassment training after Title IX complaints skyrocket

Harvard College saw shocking increase of reports over three-year period

Harvard University is requiring online Title IX training for all faculty and professors in the wake of a staggering 360 percent increase in Title IX complaints at Harvard College in the past three years.

During the 2013-14 year, 30 Title IX disclosures were made at Harvard College, according to Harvard’s own report on the matter. In 2016-17, the year the report was issued, that number was 138.

The report states the real rate of increase may in fact be higher. “This is just one example from two of the 55 Title IX Coordinators across the University,” the document reads.

The report also states that the “increase in the number of disclosures over this time period may be attributed, in part, to a greater awareness of University resources.”

A disclosure is either a concern brought to the attention of Title IX Coordinators or a formal complaint, according to the report, which also notes the incidents deal with potential sexual or gender-based harassment.

University Provost Alan Garber and Executive Vice President Katie Lapp informed all faculty and staff via email in early May that they would be required to complete an online training on the University’s harassment policy starting in the fall of 2018, according to an article in The Harvard Crimson. A version of the online module had previously been rolled out for students.

It is unclear what this training consists of or whether it has a proven track record at other universities. Harvard officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The College Fix on what differences existed for the faculty and staff training or what steps were taken to confirm that the new program was evidence-based.

Only one staff member responded to The Fix’s queries, and asked to remain anonymous; that staffer directed The Fix to the above-mentioned report.

This new training policy comes in the months following the #MeToo movement and allegations against a noted government professor at Harvard College.

Earlier this year, Professor Jorge Dominguez was placed on administrative leave after 15 women accused him of sexual harassment. Dominguez later announced his retirement.

In a letter to the Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the 15 women wrote that, based on their previous interactions with Harvard’s Title IX office, they did not believe that Harvard was capable of conducting a “full and fair” investigation into Dominguez. Dominguez’s accusers included undergraduates, PhD candidates, and Harvard staffers.

Garber and Lapp, in their email to employees earlier this month, noted the timeliness of the new training policy, writing: “As recent events across society have demonstrated, sexual and gender-based harassment remains a deeply ingrained problem. It can impose enormous human costs, personally and professionally. It undermines our shared aspiration to ensure that all members of this community have the opportunity to thrive.”

Harvard’s 2016-17 report revealed a 65 percent increase in the number of formal complaints filed with the Office for Dispute Resolutions. Twenty-six percent of the allegations of sexual assault filed with the ODR from 2014-17 were against staff or faculty members.

Meanwhile, 43 percent of sexual or gender based harassment allegations, not including sexual assault, made between 2014 and 2017 were made against staff or faculty members.

Critiques of the student-based Title IX training module proliferated early after its introduction to the Harvard campus, including by many students who simply chose not to complete it.

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About the Author
Aryssa Damron -- Yale University