University | 12:09 pm | October 21, 2011 | By Antonia Woodford

Harvard examines sexual misconduct policies

Harvard Yard
Harvard Yard Photo by ChenSiYuan/Creative Commons.

After an April letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights prompted Yale and several other universities to revise their sexual misconduct policies, Harvard is reviewing its policies as well.

According to the Crimson, Harvard has been gathering information since the spring of 2010 to determine if it is compliant with federal laws regarding gender, race, and disability. In addition, the school’s Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response has formed a committee to review sexual assault practices.

Peter F. Lake, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, told the Crimson that in light of the Title IX regulations outlined in the OCR’s letter, Harvard may especially need to reconsider its standards of evidence for proof of sexual misconduct. The OCR guidelines require schools to adopt a “preponderance of the evidence” standard — meaning that an accused party is found guilty if 51 percent or more of the evidence is against them. Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which includes the college and the graduate school, currently requires that its Administrative Board be “sufficiently persuaded” by evidence to find someone guilty, while Harvard Law School requires “clear and convincing” evidence.

Harvard Law was one of several universities — including Yale, Princeton, Duke and the University of Virginia — that received complaints over the last year for alleged Title IX violations.

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