Our Harvard Can Do Better is pleased to see that the Office of Civil Rights is holding Harvard Law School accountable to the community and to national legal standards by finding it in violation of Title IX. As this finding of noncompliance and Our Harvard’s complaint against the College both evidence, Harvard University continues to lag behind in its response to gender-based violence across its schools. We encourage the university to continue cooperating with the OCR’s Resolution Agreement in order to ensure its policies and practices reach and maintain compliance with Title IX.
Though much of the Agreement pertains only to the Law School, there are points with wider implications for the University at large. Importantly, the OCR has not yet accepted the University policy as compliant with Title IX: this approval remains contingent upon review of Supplemental Guidances due to the OCR by January 15th. These supplementary materials are meant to address important issues left out of the original policy and procedures as well as to clarify their existing content. It has taken the University an unacceptably long time to submit and publish these necessary additions and resolve questions raised by survivors and community members. We urge Harvard to submit these as soon as possible both so that the OCR may judge their acceptability and so that students, faculty, and staff may better understand the University policy and procedures surrounding sexual violence.
Also in need of submission to the OCR is the yearly campus climate survey, which Harvard is currently developing with a number of other schools in the Association of American Universities (AAU). Our Harvard shares the concerns of over 60 leading scientific experts about the AAU survey’s methods. Harvard’s survey team must work with the OCR to create a transparent and scientifically sound survey.
Though they so far apply only to HLS, Our Harvard welcomes the addition of yearly trainings and the law school’s explicit commitment to informing students and staff about their rights and University policies and procedures. We hope the University will commit to strengthening its trainings across all of its schools in order to provide students, faculty, and staff with the information required to understand and comply with the new policy. Clarity in writing is only the first step; making sure every community member actively engages with this policy at least once a year is necessary to ensuring the safety of everyone at Harvard.
We urge Harvard Law School, and the entire University, to commit itself to substantively addressing OCR’s concerns, cooperating with the Office in an expedient manner in all investigations, and recognizing the importance of Title IX in ensuring the safety and educational rights of survivors. We furthermore call on Harvard to go beyond mere compliance with its bare minimum legal obligations and to adopt the best practices for Title IX. We hope the University will not be content to merely avoid further legal reprimand, but will instead proactively implement policies that will best protect the entire Harvard community.