Sexual Harassment Complaints at Harvard up by 65 Percent

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 5: Graduating Harvard University Law School students stand and wave gavels in celebration at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. J.K. Rowling, who wrote the popular Harry Potter books, was the commencement speaker. (Photo by Robert Spencer/Getty Images)
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The number of sexual harassment complaints at Harvard University jumped 65 percent during the 2016-2017 academic year, reports the student-run Harvard Crimson.

According to the report, a filing of the school’s Office of Dispute Resolution and Title IX Office shows that 43 individuals filed formal complaints of sexual or gender-based harassment in the last academic year, up from 26 from the prior year. Approximately 250 individuals made informal disclosures of similar harassment in 2016-2017.

The Crimson observes:

In almost all cases, the complainants had previously interacted with the alleged perpetrator in either a work context, friendship, or romantic relationship. Allegations included “sexual assault with penetration,” “sexual and gender-based harassment: verbal, written, graphic,” and “quid pro quo harassment.”

The Crimson notes the majority of complaints over the past three years have been filed by students, though in academic year 2015-2016 most of the complaints were made by school staff.

“Increases in disclosures and complaints are indications that members of our community are seeking the assistance they need,” wrote Harvard president Drew G. Faust to the university’s affiliates. “If recent events in the wider world have taught us anything, it is that marginalization and silence perpetuate the status quo.”

Harvard’s Title IX office is in the second year of a new structure in which training and resources is separated from actual investigations of sexual assault.

According to the Crimson:

With this separation—and increased communication to Harvard affiliates about the resources in each office—has come an increase in disclosures to the 55 Title IX coordinators across Harvard’s schools and the number of formal complaints filed with ODR [Office of Dispute Resolution]. According to the report, 138 individuals at the College informally disclosed incidents of sexual or gender-based harassment to Title IX coordinators last year, up from 121 the year before. Across the University’s graduate and professional schools, 128 individuals at graduate and professional schools disclosed incidents.

Nicole Merhill, who heads the training group at the school, explained the increase in the number of complaints.

“Some of it is increased trainings—whether it is online or in person—some of it is increased awareness of the overall issue in society,” she said. “I think it’s awareness of the resources available, as opposed to an increase in harassment in our community.”

According to the school’s 2015 sexual assault climate survey, 31 percent of senior undergraduate females said they had experienced “nonconsensual” sexual contact.

As Breitbart News reported in April 2016, universities are spending millions of dollars defending themselves in sexual assault lawsuits.

The report notes regarding Harvard, that the school “recently hired their first Title IX officer, Mia Karvonides, who is responsible for assuring the university maintains their commitment to the Title IX regulations enacted in 1972 that ensures that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t occurring on campus.”

The Trump administration has ended Obama-era guidance on campus sexual misconduct policies in favor of procedures that ensure due process for all students.

“The withdrawn documents ignored notice and comment requirements, created a system that lacked basic elements of due process and failed to ensure fundamental fairness,” the Trump education department stated.

As Breitbart News reported, in a strong address on September 7, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asserted the Obama administration’s heavy-handed policy – that forced colleges and universities to conduct “kangaroo courts” in dealing with accusations of sexual assault –  has “failed.”

The secretary criticized the Obama administration’s 2011 Dear Colleague letter, in which it sought to end cross-examination of alleged victims by students accused of sexual assault in campus courts and rejected the traditional clear-and-convincing evidence standard of proof in school disciplinary procedures.

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