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Harvard Law School botched two sexual assault complaint investigations, according to a Department of Education report released last week. In one, the school took more than a year to resolve a complaint, did not allow the complainant to participate, and ultimately reversed a decision to dismiss the accused from the law school, reports Boston.com.
The DOE report follows a controversial change in Harvard University's sexual assault policy that was enacted over the summer, despite a strongly worded open letter objecting to the changes by 28 members of the Harvard Law faculty. According to Boston.com, despite those objections, Harvard Law will now follow the university's policy as part of an agreement resolving the DOE investigation.
The investigation, interestingly, was prompted by a report to the DOE from a member of the New England School of Law's faculty that Harvard Law's policies might have violated Title IX.
The Voluntary Resolution
According to The Associated Press, the resolution agreement includes changes to the Law School's sexual harassment and assault policies, as well as an agreement to review complaints dating back to the 2012-13 school year. The school will also notify students and employees about their right to file complaints, pursue criminal sanctions in sexual violence cases, and submit sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints to the DOE's Office for Civil Rights.
The Policy Changes
According to The Boston Globe, many of the new policies are significant changes to the way the university as a whole deals with sexual harassment and assault allegations, including:
The Law Professors' Objections
Shortly after the new policy was announced, 28 law professors signed on to an open letter, published in the Globe, objecting to the changes. The letter said that the new procedures "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."
The specific objections included:
Despite the objections, the resolution of the DOE investigation will mean that Harvard Law will join the wider University's new policy and will adopt the preponderance standard, rather than use the clear and convincing standard that it previously employed.