March 2, 2018
Dear members of the Harvard community,
Earlier this week, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on past issues of sexual harassment and assault on Harvard’s campus, citing experiences of former members of the Government Department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
It was heartbreaking to read the accounts of former students and faculty who report having suffered inappropriate and unwelcome behavior. Harvard takes seriously the concerns recently brought to our attention by former students. Upon learning of them, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences immediately began contacting students and post-docs in the Government Department to ask about their experiences in the context of our policies and responsibilities, including under Title IX. These efforts are ongoing. I want to say unequivocally that Harvard is committed to creating and sustaining a safe, healthy and non-discriminatory educational and work environment for our community, and we can and will promptly and fairly pursue any claim of sexual harassment or assault brought forward to the full extent of our policies. We are grateful to the members of our community who make the courageous decision to come forward.
This is a difficult moment for our community, above all for individuals who have experienced sexual or gender-based harassment or sexual assault. There are resources available in your Schools and across the University should you need to talk, including Harvard University Counseling and Mental Health Services, the Harvard Chaplains, and the Employee Assistance Program.
To those who are thinking about coming forward, please know Harvard will support you. We recognize that it can sometimes feel as though your network is limited to a few close colleagues. We want you to know that there is a dedicated group of professionals across the University who are here for you and can help. Our local Title IX Coordinators, the University Title IX Office, and the Office for Dispute Resolution are deeply committed to delivering on the protections of Harvard’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy. Staff members in the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response are also available to provide support and assistance.
Fostering an open and supportive community that promotes learning, teaching, research, and discovery requires dedication and ongoing attention. The only way to create and sustain a safe and healthy educational and work environment is to work constantly to improve, refine, and strengthen how we respond to—and prevent—sexual or gender-based harassment, including sexual assault. This work is essential to the success of our students, staff, and faculty today, and to the wellbeing of our community.
Achieving this isn’t easy. The work we do as an academic community brings together people of different ages and backgrounds. Faculty, staff, and students work side by side in settings that vary widely, from 24/7 labs to residential communities. Within this complexity, working conditions and the frequent power asymmetries in working relationships can make it hard for people to know when and how to speak up. And worries that speaking up might have negative repercussions within one’s community or field, in the years to come, can also prevent individuals from making a formal complaint, or speaking at all. What’s more, the confidential nature of investigations into complaints, which is essential to protect all involved, means that often important efforts are not visible to our community.
As President Faust said in her recent message to our community, “We must continue to work together to bring the same values of openness and rigor that distinguish our academic and professional pursuits to this critical issue.” We all share a responsibility to do our part in speaking up and stepping in to protect others and to create a culture where sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable. We affirm here our deepest commitment to fulfilling that responsibility, and to supporting those working toward the same end.
Alan M. Garber AB '77, PhD '82