Title IX

December 6, 2018
Dear Members of the FAS community,
 
President Bacow’s message today responding to the new Title IX rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Education was an important reminder of the strength of our shared values and the progress we have made in our work to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination. From my conversations with faculty, staff, and students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences it is clear that we still have more to do to live those values fully. However, the determined commitment that I am hearing from you to make change happen strengthens my resolve in the face of this challenging issue. Discrimination based on sex, of which sexual assault is the most destructive form, is both personally damaging for those who experience it and an assault on our faculty’s fundamental commitments to equity and academic excellence. It is something we should all be engaged in combatting. I write today to share thoughts on three issues that are on my mind as I look to the work ahead.
 
To solve hard problems, we need good data. Next week, the Office of Dispute Resolution will publish its annual report on the cases it investigated over the past year. This information helps us understand how Harvard’s Title IX policies and procedures are working, and provides insight into areas where we could do better. The Title IX Policy Review Committee recommends in its most recent report that we share more information with the community about how disclosures and complaints are handled, and that we do so more proactively. The fact-based approach that we employ in our academic work is just as important when evaluating our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based harassment, and I am prepared to do my part to improve communication on these issues.
 
The power imbalance of the academy cannot be ignored. Tenured faculty have a profound influence on their tenure-track colleagues, and on students and staff. These power dynamics are a structural characteristic of the academy and are also a contributing factor in harassment and discrimination. The particular role of tenured faculty in assessing academic and other work can make other members of the community more vulnerable to harassment and more reluctant to report for fear of negative professional or academic repercussions. To my tenured faculty colleagues, I would say that this reality means that we have a particular responsibility to speak up and to drive the changes we want to see in this institution. In the day-to-day life of departments and programs, we must ensure that our work is built on a foundation of collaboration and mutual respect, and we must actively foster an environment in which all members of our community can participate fully, without fear for their safety or the distractions and humiliations of discriminatory treatment.
 
The full spectrum of unwelcome behavior must be addressed. Getting our Title IX policy right is important, but no single policy can, on its own, create the safe and inclusive culture we all want for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Between fully mutually consensual relationships and the severe, persistent, or pervasive unwelcome behaviors that constitute clear Title IX violations, there is a wide range of actions that can demean, injure, and isolate members of our community. These behaviors are in fact no less harmful or unacceptable. If you or someone you know is being subjected to unwelcome behavior, I encourage you to talk to a Title IX coordinator. Talking to them does not mean that you need to file a formal complaint. Whether or not the behavior is a potential Title IX violation, they can connect you with the right resources and can help you think through immediate measures that can help.  Links to additional resources are listed at the end of this message.
 
We must set about the challenge of preventing sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination with the urgency, seriousness, and resourcefulness we would bring to bear on any threat to our mission of academic excellence. If this is a collective effort, I am confident in our ability to make progress. Taking ownership of our shared future may require that we do hard things that push us beyond what is comfortable and try new things, not all of which will succeed, but I am ready to be your partner in this work.
 
Sincerely yours,
 
Claudine Gay
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences 
 
If you have questions or need support, some of the resources available to you include the FAS Title IX Coordinators, the University Title IX Office, the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Services, the Harvard Chaplains, and the Employee Assistance Program.