Harvard University has announced new Title IX policies that will create a new Office of Sexual and Gender Based Dispute Resolution to investigate cases of sexual assault and harassment, while implementing a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in investigations. The policies are expected to go into effect the coming fall term.
The preponderance of the evidence standard, which Yale currently uses to investigate sexual misconduct, is upheld if the accusation is more likely than not to be true. This is a lower burden of proof than “beyond reasonable doubt” and “clear and convincing evidence,” and according to the Harvard Crimson, many see “preponderance of the evidence” as a lower burden of proof than Harvard’s previous standard “sufficiently persuaded.”
The new policy does not contain an affirmative consent requirement, which students have called for in the past and would have stipulated that sexual activity take place only after partners receive verbal yeses from one another with full understanding of the situation. Yale University’s Office for Equal Opportunity Programs uses the following definition of “consent”:
Sexual activity requires consent, which is defined as positive, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity throughout a sexual encounter. Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no”; a clear “yes,” verbal or otherwise, is necessary.
Although the new policies are set to take effect in the fall, they have not yet been approved by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The university unveiled them Wednesday in order to ease their implementation later this year, according to Harvard University Title IX Officer Mia Karvonides in the Crimson.