Title IX and nondiscrimination

Harvard University is committed to the safety and wellbeing of every member of its community, including ensuring an environment that is free of discrimination and harassment, and one where every individual has the opportunity to succeed. Over the past several years, the University has taken significant steps to strengthen the resources devoted to addressing and preventing harassment and discrimination. 

HGSU-UAW Proposal
 

HGSU-UAW has stated that at the top of their priorities is having the University agree to the creation of an independent arbitration process for discrimination and harassment cases. The current HGSU-UAW proposal would make available to its bargaining unit members a labor arbitration process as either an alternative to the University’s current Title IX and Office of Dispute Resolution process or in addition to the University’s process.

Concerns
 

The University is opposed to HGSU-UAW’s proposal, based on key concerns:

  • It creates an inequitable process for students, inconsistent with federal Title IX regulations.
    An arbitration process available to bargaining unit members would carve out those student workers as having a separate process not available to all other students. Some students would be able to have their discrimination claim pursued to arbitration on their behalf while most would not. This is inconsistent with both current Title IX regulations that demand fair and equitable processes for all students as well as the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed changes to those regulations.
     
  • It forces complainants and respondents into cross-examination.
    A standard labor arbitration process, as HGSU-UAW has proposed, would potentially subject any individual who is a complainant or respondent, and witnesses, to a cross-examination setting, whether they are members of the bargaining unit or not. The University (and UAW International) has written in opposition to the proposed U.S. Department of Education regulations, in part due to concerns over this type of cross examination.
     
  • It does not punish offenders.
    An independent arbitrator would have no authority to impose sanctions or punishment on individuals found to have violated the University’s Title IX policies. 

University Proposal
 

The University has policies and procedures in place to ensure that matters related to discrimination and harassment are dealt with appropriately, in compliance with the University’s policies and the law, and that we are doing all we can to protect all students, as well as every member of our community. While recent changes have strengthened our procedures, we agree there is more work to do on this front. To that end, the University has proposed specific opportunities for HGSU-UAW to have an important role in the process for strengthening those policies and procedures:

  • Seats for HGSU-UAW representatives on the currently-existing Title IX Policy Review Committee, a University-wide mechanism that represents the interests of the entire Harvard community, including faculty, staff and students.
     
  • Seats on two to-be-established committees that will make recommendations on University policies and procedures for addressing other forms of discrimination and misconduct.
     
  • Contractual protections against retaliation of any sort for pursuing claims of discrimination.
     
  • A contractual guarantee that no student worker should be pressured by University officials to accept informal resolution of their complaint or interim measures in place of filing and pursuing a formal complaint.
     
  • A contractual guarantee that an "impartial and unbiased panel" will be available to hear any appeals from complainants or respondents regarding the final report of an investigatory team.
     
  • A statement of current policy that all faculty, staff and students will be required to take training in sexual and gender-based harassment.

Read the University's proposal

Links and resources
 

Frequently asked questions

Who pays for an arbitrator?

Normally, the fees paid to the arbitrator are split between the union and the employer. Each pays 50% of the arbitrator’s fees and expenses. 

Can an arbitrator run a full investigation?

The arbitrator is not an investigator. S/he expects the two sides – the employer and the union – to come into the hearing prepared with evidence to support their position, through witnesses and documents. Arbitration is not an alternative investigatory proceeding. In arbitration, the union is claiming the employer violated the contract; the employer is arguing that it did not. 

Who can choose to take a matter to arbitration?

Usually, only the Union can take a case to arbitration. A student, by themselves, has no right to take a case to arbitration. If a student worker who has been disciplined believes that the discipline was unjust, then they can ask the Union to file a grievance and take the case to arbitration if it is not resolved in the step grievance process.

Does an arbitrator impose discipline?

No. An arbitrator would consider the testimony and other evidence and decide whether the contract had been violated. The arbitrator would then fashion an appropriate remedy for the injured student worker. That could range from an award of back pay, to reinstatement, to payment for mental health appointments or other medical costs. Imposition of discipline on the person who engaged in the contract violation is outside the scope of the arbitrator’s authority.

What options are available for a student worker who experiences sexual and/or gender-based harassment?

There are many resources and options available within the Harvard Community and beyond for students, staff, and faculty who experience sexual and/or gender-based harassment. Some options include:

Reaching out to your Title IX Coordinator to:

  • seek interim measures (e.g., course related extensions, work and/or course schedule adjustments, leaves of absence, no contact orders)
  • learn more about informal resolution and/or the formal complaint process
  • learn more about the University’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy...
Read more about What options are available for a student worker who experiences sexual and/or gender-based harassment?

Are there options available to raise a concern anonymously?

Yes. In the fall 2019, Harvard is piloting a web-based system which allows members of the Harvard community to anonymously disclose incidents of sexual and gender-based harassment to the Harvard University Title IX Office at any time from their laptop or mobile device. The online system was specifically designed to protect the anonymity and maintain the confidentiality of those who choose to use it. Once someone submits their disclosure form through the system, they may create a username and password, so that they may return to their form at any time... Read more about Are there options available to raise a concern anonymously?

What is informal resolution?

Informal resolution is a voluntary process through which the party initiating the request identifies specific allegations and, with the assistance of their Title IX Coordinator, the Title IX Officer, or ODR, addresses those allegations through a written agreement that is mutually acceptable to both parties, the School or Unit Title IX Coordinator, and the Title IX Officer or the Director of ODR in consultation with the Title IX Officer.

Does a student worker who experiences discrimination or harassment have to seek informal resolution prior to filing a formal complaint with ODR?

No. Impacted parties may file a formal complaint with ODR without engaging in informal resolution. The informal resolution process is completely voluntary. In fact, most individuals who reach out to ODR proceed directly to the formal complaint process without accessing informal resolution. All parties, however, are informed of the option of informal resolution, as set forth in the procedures.

Read more about Does a student worker who experiences discrimination or harassment have to seek informal resolution prior to filing a formal complaint with ODR?

What is the difference between a disclosure and a formal complaint?

Disclosures are concerns regarding incidents of potential sexual or gender-based harassment that are brought to the attention of local Title IX Coordinators or the University Title IX Office; a formal complaint is a written and signed statement alleging a violation of the Policy. A complaint can be filed by the complainant or by a third party filing on behalf of a potential complainant (a “reporter”). Submitting a complaint to ODR starts the formal complaint process...

Read more about What is the difference between a disclosure and a formal complaint?

Where can a student worker find more information about the formal complaint investigation process, including the steps of the process?

Student workers have multiple means of accessing additional information about the formal investigation process. Student workers may access information about the formal complaint process here and/or they may meet with their local Title IX Coordinator or the University Title IX Office to learn more about the ODR formal complaint process. Individuals may also contact ODR to set up a time to learn more about the University’s Policy and Procedures. It is important to note that student workers may meet...

Read more about Where can a student worker find more information about the formal complaint investigation process, including the steps of the process?

Must a student worker first reach out to their Title IX Coordinator prior to filing a formal complaint with the Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR)?

No. While impacted parties are encouraged to connect with resources available at Harvard, including their local Title IX Coordinators, the University Title IX Office, or the array of confidential resources available across the University, individuals may choose to go directly to ODR to file a formal complaint without first accessing other University resources.

Read more about Must a student worker first reach out to their Title IX Coordinator prior to filing a formal complaint with the Office for Dispute Resolution (ODR)?

Are student workers allowed to seek the assistance of a personal advisor, such as a Union representative, to provide them with support throughout the formal investigation process with ODR?

Yes. Student workers may have a Union representative with them at any stage of the proceedings, including during any discussions of informal resolution.

Read more about Are student workers allowed to seek the assistance of a personal advisor, such as a Union representative, to provide them with support throughout the formal investigation process with ODR?

What factors can impact the length of a formal complaint investigation?

Many factors affect the length of the investigation in a particular case, including the type and total number of allegations per complaint; how long ago the conduct occurred, over how long a period of time, and how many policies may apply as a result; the nature and volume of the documentation submitted as evidence; the number of witness interviews; scheduling challenges, such as: academic obligations (e.g., exams, final projects); University holidays; and parties’ and/or witnesses’ travel abroad; the need for language interpretation/translation; and extensions in time granted to parties...

Read more about What factors can impact the length of a formal complaint investigation?

What happens once an ODR investigation is complete?

Once an investigation has been completed, both parties are provided with a copy of a draft investigation report. Parties are permitted, but not required, to submit written responses to the draft report within one week of receiving it. ODR considers any written responses from the parties before finalizing the report. A copy of the final report is provided to both parties, along with the Title IX Coordinator and the appropriate School/Business Unit official.

What is included in an ODR Final Report on an investigation?

The report contains findings of fact, applies the preponderance of the evidence standard, determines whether there was a violation of the Title IX Policy, and, if a violation is found, outlines recommended measures to eliminate any harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. The final report does not include recommendations with regards to sanctions to be taken against an individual who is found to have violated the Policy. Sanction and disciplinary decisions lies with the appropriate official within the Respondent’s school or...

Read more about What is included in an ODR Final Report on an investigation?

Why aren’t details regarding the outcome of formal investigations shared broadly with the University community?

Upholding the privacy of the individuals engaged in the formal complaint process is central to the work of ODR. Often complainants, as well as witnesses for both parties, express reluctance to participate in the formal complaint process without assurances that the University will not publicly share information pertaining to their engagement in the formal complaint process.

As the number of formal complaints grow, we are better positioned to share additional data pertaining to formal complaint outcomes. This measure of greater transparency is reflected in the expansion of data...

Read more about Why aren’t details regarding the outcome of formal investigations shared broadly with the University community?