Civil Liberties

Obama's Mentor, Harvard Law Profs Blast New Sex Harassment Policies


Harvard University
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Some of Harvard's top law professors are no fans of the university's new sexual harassment policy, and have penned an op-ed for The Boston Globe stating their concerns.

Harvard debuted a new sexual harassment policy this year in response to pressure from the federal Office of Civil Rights. But the policy—which broadens the definition of sexual harassment and gives one university office sole power in adjudicating disputes—vastly exceeds the scope of federal law, according to 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty. They write:

As teachers responsible for educating our students about due process of law, the substantive law governing discrimination and violence, appropriate administrative decision-making, and the rule of law generally, we find the new sexual harassment policy inconsistent with many of the most basic principles we teach. We also find the process by which this policy was decided and imposed on all parts of the university inconsistent with the finest traditions of Harvard University, of faculty governance, and of academic freedom.

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 professors recommend scrapping the entire policy and starting over again. They accept that this could get the university in trouble with the feds, but Harvard is fully capable of taking a stand against unjust federal mandates, they write:

We recognize that large amounts of federal funding may ultimately be at stake. But Harvard University is positioned as well as any academic institution in the country to stand up for principle in the face of funding threats. The issues at stake are vitally important to our students, faculties, and entire community.

Prominent legal commentator Alan Dershowitz is among the op-ed's signatories. So is Charles Ogletree, who is considered to have been one of President Obama's mentors. Read the full thing here.

On a related note, The New Republic recently asked "feminist and public defender" Robin Steinberg to evaluate Columbia University's similarly strident anti-harassment policy. After reviewing the policy, Steinbeg and her colleagues decided that they would never send their sons to college:

A few hours later, Steinberg wrote back in alarm. She had read the document with colleagues at the Bronx legal-aid center she runs. They were horrified, she said—not because Columbia still hadn't sufficiently protected survivors of assault, as some critics charge, but because its procedures revealed a cavalier disregard for the civil rights of people accused of rape, assault, and other gender-based crimes. "We are never sending our boys to college," she wrote.

More from Reason on the debate over campus sex and due process here.