Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Sexual harassment and sexual assault degrade human dignity, and they have no place at Harvard. The powerful forces of presumption and hierarchy shape our lives and our communities in profound ways. Over the past few months, this reality has been underscored by revelation after revelation of sexual misconduct by individuals across the country, and we have witnessed an unprecedented movement on social media and elsewhere to share experiences, seek support, and pursue justice. 

At Harvard, we are committed to ensuring that every member of our community can thrive, and we are endeavoring to create the kind of environment in which incidents are prevented entirely or surfaced and addressed appropriately and effectively. This effort has included the work of the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault and the Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, as well as the ongoing activities of offices across our campus. Today, we release the 2017 Report of the University’s Title IX Office and Office of Dispute Resolution, which describes our progress in detail.  

We hope that all members of our community are sensitive and alert in ways that can help avoid and prevent sexual harassment. Over the past year, more than two hundred educational sessions were held, and some ten thousand Harvard faculty, students, and staff completed online training. We are seeing results in other ways, too. The Title IX Office, working with a network of more than fifty Title IX coordinators, supports those who wish to disclose an incident or concern about sexual or gender-based harassment. There have been more than 250 such disclosures in the last year, and the rate of disclosure is growing. In addition, all members of our community may access the services of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response for educational initiatives or support when incidents occur.

The Office for Dispute Resolution provides options for the pursuit of formal complaints, each of which is investigated before findings are sent for ultimate resolution to the deans of the schools in cases of alleged faculty misconduct, to local human resource offices in cases of alleged staff misconduct, and to student disciplinary boards in cases of alleged student misconduct. Resolutions range from a finding that no violation of our policy occurred to sanctions that include termination or expulsion. While this process unfolds, interim measures can be put in place to protect those who disclose an incident or make a formal complaint. In the last year, the number of complaints has increased by 65 percent.

Increases in disclosures and complaints are indications that members of our community are seeking the assistance they need. If recent events in the wider world have taught us anything, it is that marginalization and silence perpetuate the status quo. If we want the Harvard we experience to match the Harvard we imagine, we must commit ourselves not just to building institutional structures, but to encouraging individual action. We seek your engagement and your help: 

  1. If you have not done so, read the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy of Harvard University. Violation of this policy by any member of the Harvard community is unacceptable. 
  2. Increase your awareness and knowledge by attending a local discussion or training. Contact your local Title IX Coordinator or the University Title IX Office for information on customized online training for students, or participate in the online training for faculty and staff. Take the opportunity to learn from others and to share your insights about how we can most effectively build a culture of respect at Harvard.
  3. If you have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or discrimination, come forward. Your local Title IX coordinator will counsel you about your options for seeking interim relief and filing a formal complaint.  
  4. If you have experienced sexual assault at Harvard, we encourage you to report it to the Harvard University Police Department. Medical assistance and counseling are available through Harvard University Health Services, and staff members of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response are certified rape crisis counselors and are available to provide support or assistance as well. 

We must continue to work together to bring the same values of openness and rigor that distinguish our academic and professional pursuits to this critical issue. We must speak when we see wrongdoing, and we must support one another. The Harvard we imagine—a Harvard where all people can realize their full potential unhindered—demands no less.      

Sincerely,
Drew Faust