Harvard Law School failed to provide a “prompt and equitable response” to complaints of sexual harassment and assault, the U.S. Department of Education has found. The lapse violated Title IX, a law that bans gender discrimination at organizations that receive federal funding.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights found that Harvard failed to properly respond to two student complaints of sexual assault in particular. In one case, Harvard Law School officials took more than a year to rule on a student’s complaint and did not let the student participate in the drawn-out appeals process (in that case, officials decided to reverse an initial decision to dismiss the student accused of sexual assault). The Department of Education did not release further details about the students or people accused of sexual assault.
Since the Office of Civil Rights began its investigation, Harvard has revised its procedures for conducting sexual assault investigations and named a Title IX coordinator. Under the terms of the resolution, Harvard must also review complaints filed since 2012 to ensure that they complied with Title IX, provide information sessions to students on their rights in sexual harassment complaints and conduct annual “climate assessments” to determine whether the Law School’s steps are effective in assuring adherence to Title IX.
The action against Harvard comes amid a larger crackdown on colleges to compel them to better respond to allegations of sexual assault. In October the Office for Civil Rights said it was investigating 85 colleges due to concerns for how they handle sexual assault cases. Among the schools still being investigated is Harvard College, the undergraduate arm of Harvard University.