Federal officials have found Harvard Law School to repeatedly have been in violation of Title IX regarding its response to sexual harassment and assault.
The violations have caused the school to enter a resolution agreement with the Department of Education after the conclusion of an investigation by their Office for Civil Rights.
According to the DOE, two specific cases at the school provided the evidence that a change was needed, including one where “the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant’s complaint.”
The agreement with Harvard Law School is separate from the current investigation occurring at Harvard College, which has seen similar complaints about its sexual harassment and assault policies, writes William Plowman for CBS News.
Harvard University revamped its sexual misconduct policy over the summer, paying careful attention to its handling of reports of assaults and harassment, including for the first time a definition of “sexual harassment,” and also created a central office to handle the resulting investigations from allegations, reports Akane Otani for Bloomberg Businessweek.
Even though some of those changes were required by the school’s agreement with the DOE, they did meet with opposition from over two dozen Law School faculty members, who said they “lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process.”
“We think this is enormously one-sided in the nature of the procedures,” Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet said.
Bartholet went on to say she feels that the new policies do not show the same level of fairness toward the accused students as they do to victims. Accused students cannot review evidence, face their accusers in a hearing, or access proper legal representation.
“It’s very important to make sure that we’re not improperly disciplining students and, in the law school, make sure that we’re not destroying somebody’s future career based on facts that are simply wrong,” she said.
The new policy comes with a lower burden of proof than the old policy did, focusing more on the evidence rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The DOE is currently conducting investigations into 55 universities for Title IX violations related to sexual misconduct.
In the last three years, Harvard has handled 100 reported cases of sexual assault.
One assault victim wrote an open letter in the college newspaper last April saying, “Our policy is so outdated and narrow in scope that it discourages survivors from entering an investigative process.”