The Corner

28 Harvard Law Professors Slam the College’s New ‘Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures’

The Boston Globe reports today that 28 Harvard Law professors have issued “strong objections” to the campus’s new Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures. Per the Globe, the dissenters contend not only that the “policy adopted by Harvard will do more harm than good” but charge caustically that authorities on campus have elected to “defer to the demands of certain federal administrative officials, rather than exercise independent judgment about the kind of sexual harassment policy that would be consistent with law and with the needs of our students and the larger university community.” In consequence, the group argues, Harvard has “undermined and effectively destroyed the individual schools’ traditional authority to decide discipline for their own students.”

As one might expect, the complaint revolves primarily around due process. The members 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.

Moreover, they argue:

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.

Specifically, the professors criticized the procedures’ “failure to ensure adequate representation for the accused, particularly for students unable to afford representation”; “absence of any adequate opportunity to discover the facts charged and to confront witnesses and present a defense at an adversary hearing”; and reliance upon “rules which are starkly one-sided as between complainants and respondents, and entirely inadequate to address the complex issues in these unfortunate situations involving extreme use and abuse of alcohol and drugs by our students.” 

In conclusion, the letter calls “on the university to withdraw this sexual harassment policy and begin the challenging project of carefully thinking through what substantive and procedural rules would best balance the complex issues involved in addressing sexual conduct and misconduct in our community.” “The goal,” the rebels write,

must not be simply to go as far as possible in the direction of preventing anything that some might characterize as sexual harassment. The goal must instead be to fully address sexual harassment while at the same time protecting students against unfair and inappropriate discipline, honoring individual relationship autonomy, and maintaining the values of academic freedom.

Yesterday, I wrote about the appalling illiberalism of Ezra Klein and his fellow travelers on the unprincipled, authoritarian Left. Presumably, both he and his grubby little ilk would regard these criticisms as benefits, not drawbacks. The rest of us, however, might see them for what they are: the elevation of ends over means and a creeping internal threat to free civilization and the Western way of life. Bravo, Harvard Law — or some of it, at least.

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