Boston, MA- In response to a federal investigation, and criticism over their handling of campus sexual harassment and assault, Harvard recently announced new policies to combat this problem. But the policy is drawing fire from professors who say it violates the accused’s right to due process.
The new policy, which went into effect this fall, defines sexual harassment for the first time, using the federal definition which faced extensive criticism when it was introduced last year. It also sets up an office to deal with complaints of sexual misconduct on campus. In a statement issued last week, Harvard stated that the new policies “create an expert, neutral, fair, and objective mechanism for investigating sexual misconduct cases involving students.”
But Harvard professors take issue with some key changes in the policy, which they say deprives the accused of their basic rights. Under the new policy, a victim only has to prove their claim with a preponderance of evidence,” in contrast with federal policies which required allegations of sexual harassment or assault be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In a letter appearing in the Boston Globe, professors wrote, “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.”
The new policy the professors say are absent of protections for the accused and stack the odds against the accused in a number of ways which, per the Boston Globe, include:
“The absence of any adequate opportunity to discover the facts charged and to confront witnesses and present a defense at an adversary hearing.
The lodging of the functions of investigation, prosecution, fact-finding, and appellate review in one office, and the fact that that office is itself a Title IX compliance office rather than an entity that could be considered structurally impartial.
The failure to ensure adequate representation for the accused, particularly for students unable to afford representation.”
Professors are urging Harvard to change the policy and draft their own.
In May of this year, Harvard was listed among the 55 colleges and university under investigation by the Department of Education after months of complaints that schools across the country mishandled allegations of sexual harassment and assault on campus.
A White House reported released earlier this year showed that one in five college age women were sexually assaulted by a fellow student. The reported stated that college age women are in more danger of being sexually harassed or assaulted than any other group in American society.
Despite the prevalence of sexual misconduct of campuses, only 12 percent of college age women actually report the incidents. The primary reason is because they don’t actually believe their allegations will be taken seriously– this is true of the workplace, as well. When a victim encounters this issue, they should consult with a sexual harassment attorney to explain the actions they must take and determine if they should pursue a civil suit.