April 7, 2022 Message from Provost Alan M. Garber to the University Community
Dear members of the Harvard Community,
Last year, I announced the formation of the Discrimination and Bullying Policy Working Groups and Steering Committee. The Working Groups, which included faculty, undergraduate and graduate student, postdoc, and staff representation from across the University, met throughout the spring semester to conduct research, gather input from the community, consider existing School-based policies and processes, deliberate, and make recommendations related to the University’s Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct policies and procedures, and to recommend new University-wide policies addressing discrimination and bullying. The Working Groups submitted their reports to the Steering Committee at the beginning of the summer, and the Steering Committee worked over the summer to review the recommendations and write their own report. The deans received all four reports in the fall. Since that time, leaders and staff across the University have worked with the deans to produce proposed policies and procedures addressing discrimination and bullying, as well as to recommend changes to the existing Interim Title IX and Interim Other Sexual Misconduct policies and procedures. These documents are all available on the policy review website.
The reports and draft policies are the product of substantial time and effort on the part of the Working Groups, Steering Committee, and School and University leadership. I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to this effort. They have approached these challenging topics with care, thoughtfulness, and dedication. Before turning to next steps, I would like to highlight two central messages of the Working Group and Steering Committee reports:
First, our policies and procedures must clearly and consistently demonstrate that our community will not tolerate misconduct and, when it does occur, enable us to hold members of our community accountable. These systems are most effective if they are accessible, thorough, and fair. Our community members need to be able to trust that we will all be held to the same standards, regardless of real or perceived power or status within the University.
Second, our efforts need to extend beyond systems that establish minimum standards of conduct, and we must discipline those who fail to meet those standards. We aspire to be a community that upholds the values of free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change. While the next phase of this undertaking will focus on the policies and procedures themselves, policies and procedures alone cannot cultivate the kind of culture and community that we want to see. They set expectations that reflect our values, but as these reports emphasize, we need to go beyond these minimum standards to foster a community in which every member can thrive. We are committed to aligning our policies and procedures with education, training, and programming that facilitates and empowers community members with the support and tools needed to ensure that our community is built upon a foundation of respect for others.
There is much at stake and, as is evidenced in these reports, great diversity of thought about how we should proceed. Policies that govern our interactions with one another, accompanied by procedures that could end in serious disciplinary sanctions, invoke important questions about academic freedom and fair process. While formal procedures can appear complex and bureaucratic, the weight of their consequences demands a robust and fair process. Our procedures are not intended to, nor should they attempt to, replicate the legal system—but we also cannot ignore that the outcomes of our processes can be challenged in court and thus must consider their legal implications.
As many in our community are aware, these policies must align with applicable laws and regulations. In the case of Title IX, federal regulations place limits on how our policy and procedures are written and implemented. In 2020, the University put in place Interim Title IX and Interim Other Sexual Misconduct policies and procedures following final regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education. We are aware that further proposed revisions to federal Title IX regulations are expected in the coming weeks. While there is likely to be a lengthy comment and revision period, as was the case prior to the 2020 regulation changes, we will need to review our University policies to ensure their compliance if and when new federal regulations are implemented.
The Working Groups, Steering Committee, and School and University leaders have spent the past year grappling with these issues. Community input at this stage is critically important, and we will soon begin a comment phase during which all members of the Harvard campus community will be invited to offer their thoughts and suggestions on the proposed policies and procedures. Because we want to ensure adequate opportunities for everyone to participate, and because the end of the academic year is rapidly approaching, we plan to keep this comment phase open through the end of September. Please be on the lookout for more information from Schools and Units about opportunities to participate in discussions about these drafts. If you would prefer to send your comments to the Provost’s Office, you may do so by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be a wide range of views about how best to approach such important and challenging issues, but I firmly believe that the process of deliberation and debate will help us craft a set of policies that reflect and reinforce our values and advance our aspirations as a community.
Alan M. Garber
January 25, 2021 Message from Provost Alan M. Garber to the University Community
Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
One of the priorities of this University is to provide an environment where each of us can feel safe to participate fully in the life of the University, whether we are studying, teaching, conducting research, or working in other ways.
Today, as part of this ongoing commitment, we are embarking upon a community-driven effort to examine how we address discrimination and harassment at Harvard. I have invited faculty, students, and staff from across the University’s Schools and units to help us to review existing policies and, where appropriate, develop new University-wide policies and procedures concerning three main areas: sexual misconduct, discrimination, and bullying.
The University Discrimination and Bullying Policy Steering Committee and Working Groups, which have been formed in accordance with stipulations made in our negotiations with the Harvard Graduate Students Union, will begin their work over the coming weeks, and there will be opportunities throughout the process for community members to share their input and experiences.
A few notes about the responsibilities of each group:
Last August, the University enacted two interim policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment in response to new Title IX regulations from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The policies are not yet final because the DOE set a deadline for colleges and universities to enact a compliant policy that was too short to allow for substantial input from members of the community. The Title IX Policy and Other Sexual Misconduct Policy Working Group has been charged with revisiting these two interim policies and procedures to ensure they are as effective and inclusive as possible, while remaining compliant with federal law.
The Non-Discrimination Policy Working Group will make recommendations to address forms of prohibited discrimination other than sexual and gender-based harassment. This group will suggest procedures by which such complaints will be investigated and resolved, and it will also advise on how these policies, as well as mechanisms to address violations, could be made more visible and accessible to members of the Harvard community.
The Anti-Bullying Working Group will recommend University-wide policies and procedures to address complaints about misconduct that do not violate policies against sexual and gender-based harassment or other forms of prohibited discrimination, but which nonetheless may be abusive and/or intimidating to student workers and other members of the Harvard community. In particular, this group will address complaints about power-based harassment and other misconduct by individuals who hold authority over others.
Input from the Harvard community will be an important part of this process, and opportunities to share your thoughts with members of the working groups will be announced over the coming months. The membership and the detailed charges for each group have been posted here, and outreach details will be included on this site once they are available.
I am grateful to the individuals who have agreed to be a part of this important effort and look forward to their recommendations.
Alan M. Garber AB '77, PhD '82