Reinstating Student Rights or Criminalizing Title IX? The Struggle to Define Sexual Harassment at Harvard Law School

Cory Cole

Abstract


In 2013, Harvard University responded to a number of ongoing Title IX complaints by hiring a university-wide Title IX Officer named Mia Karvonides and tasking her with the creation of a new, centralized sexual harassment policy fully compliant with Title IX. Shortly after this policy was unveiled in 2014, twenty-eight members of the Harvard Law School (HLS) faculty published an op-ed in the Boston Globe that eviscerated this new policy, claiming that it violated students’ right to due process. This case study uses evidence from Harvard’s student newspaper The Crimson, the text of recent Office of Civil Rights (OCR) guidance documents, and several scholarly articles written by those involved in the conflict. Furthermore, it describes and analyzes the issues that the co-authors of the Boston Globe op-ed introduced and recounts the innovative way in which Karvonides responded to these criticisms without compromising her core values. As this country continues to see an increase in vocal and well-funded resistance to policies meant to protect survivors of sexual violence, the HLS case provides lessons for advocates for survivors’ rights on campus can utilize in the upcoming wave of similar conflicts.


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