Harvard Agrees to Revise Its Sexual Assault Policy

Some Harvard Law profs warn new policy lacks fairness, due process
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2014 1:00 AM CST
Harvard Agrees to Revise Its Sexual Assault Policy
Students walk through the Harvard Law School area on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in this Nov. 19, 2002 file photo.   (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki, File)

Harvard Law reached a settlement yesterday with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, in which it agreed to update its sexual harassment policy to change how it responds to sexual assault cases. The update, however, is likely to make the law school's approach more similar to the university-wide policy adopted in July that lowers the burden of proof to a "preponderance of evidence"—an update that some Harvard Law faculty bemoan as lacking "the most basic elements of fairness and due process," reports Businessweek.

The Education Department not only concluded that Harvard's law school was not ensuring a fair and prompt review of sexual assault allegations, it also highlighted two cases in which the school did not "appropriately" respond to complaints of sexual assault, reports the Washington Post. In one instance, the complainant wasn't allowed to participate in the appeal process at all, and it took the school more than a year to make a decision, which it ultimately reversed. Harvard claims it has addressed some of these issues during the four-year investigation, including launching a task force to "recommend ways to more effectively prevent gender-based discrimination." (The Education Department recently found that two in five schools are ignoring sexual assaults altogether.)

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