University Position on HGSU-UAW Proposed Arbitration of Harassment and Discrimination Claims

December 3, 2019

Dear Faculty: With the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) strike beginning today, we write to give you information regarding a key issue that has been part of our negotiations: How the University handles claims of harassment and discrimination, and specifically the Union’s proposal for grievance and arbitration of such matters. We realize this is a complex topic that involves the University’s legal obligations under Title IX, along with the considerations for how the University continues to strengthen resources and procedures to address and prevent harassment and discrimination of any kind.

To be clear, Harvard University is committed to the safety and wellbeing of every member of our community, including ensuring an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment, and one where every individual has the opportunity to succeed. However, we do have concerns over the proposed labor arbitration HGSU-UAW has put forward. We have provided more explanation of the University’s concerns online (or download the PDF), which we encourage you to review. Briefly, though, those concerns include:

  • Inconsistent with the requirements of Title IX regulations – HGSU-UAW’s proposed labor arbitration would be inconsistent with the requirement under federal Title IX regulations for an equitable investigation, one that is led by a trained investigator and where all “rights and opportunities” available to one party in that investigation are equally available to the other. Arbitration is not an investigation, nor is an arbitrator an investigator, as defined in federal Title IX regulations. Additionally, in a scenario where a claim is brought against a non-union member, including a faculty member, only the student worker would have access to the arbitration process, not other members of the Harvard community.
  • Cross examination would have a chilling effect on reporting – The University’s concerns also include the fact that cross examination is a component of a standard labor arbitration. It is our view that the prospect of such an adversarial process would have a chilling effect on reporting. This is something both the University and UAW International are on record opposing in public comments regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
In addition to information on this specific issue, you can review all of the University’s positions and proposals online. We will continue to post updates regarding the strike and ongoing negotiations.

We hope this information is helpful, and certainly if you have questions, please feel free to direct them to:


Doreen Koretz
Associate Provost for Social Sciences and Professions

Paul Curran
Director of Employee and Labor Relations