Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

May 9, 2018

Dear Faculty and Staff,

We all share responsibility for creating a vibrant and supportive environment for the people who teach, research, study, and work at Harvard. That shared responsibility motivated President Faust to constitute the University-wide Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, whose efforts focused “on how we can make progress toward our goal of a community in which everyone may participate as a full member and everyone has the opportunity to thrive.” It is in that spirit that we write today to let you know of the decision, in consultation with the President, President-elect, Corporation, and others, to build upon existing efforts to orient members of our community to the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy and resources by requiring completion of an online training module by all Harvard faculty and staff beginning this fall.

As recent events across society have demonstrated, sexual and gender-based harassment remains a deeply ingrained problem. It can impose enormous human costs, personally and professionally. It undermines our shared aspiration to ensure that all members of this community have the opportunity to thrive. And it is inconsistent with the respect for the dignity of others and freedom from intimidation and violence that, as reflected in the University Statement on Rights and Responsibilities, are “essential to our nature as an academic community.”

Periodic training can help remind us of the University’s policies and our responsibilities as members of the community. It can also familiarize us with the many resources Harvard has to support anyone who has experienced inappropriate behavior. We seek to create a community whose members feel comfortable coming forward to report unsettling experiences; that aspiration will be realized only if we all have an understanding of the relevant policies and available resources.

As you may know, training to recognize and prevent sexual and gender-based harassment is not new at Harvard. The Schools have robust orientation programs to acquaint students with our rules, expectations, and resources, including those in the area of sexual and gender-based harassment. All newly hired staff are likewise required to complete a training module prepared by the University’s Title IX Office. Over the past two years, more than 25,000 members of the community have completed the University’s online Title IX training module and, as a result, have become more familiar with our rules and better able to guide those who need help to the appropriate resources. Faculty and staff have also participated in hundreds of in-person Title IX training sessions provided by the University Title IX Office and local Title IX Coordinators. The step we will take in the fall will provide a common baseline of training to all faculty and staff.

There will be more to say about the details in the fall, after colleagues from Title IX and HUIT have had the opportunity to update the training programs and to ensure that the necessary administrative and IT infrastructure is in place.

Finally, as many of you know, a University-wide committee, chaired by Professor Donald Pfister and constituted in 2015, is evaluating how the 2014 Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy and procedures have been working in practice and whether there are opportunities for improvement. President Faust has asked Professor Pfister’s committee to address two main issues: first, what can we do about the structural and cultural realities that help shape the environment where sexual and gender-based harassment occurs? Second, how can we earn the trust of members of the community so that they can turn to the University with the confidence that their concerns will be taken seriously, that they will receive support in difficult situations, and that the University will be responsive and fair? The committee welcomes your views on these questions. Comments can be sent to We look forward to receiving the committee’s reflections on how we may refine our response to this difficult issue.

As a community, we share a commitment to doing all that we can to address the problem of sexual and gender-based harassment. The training module, by creating a common understanding among faculty and staff of our policies and resources, is an important step in advancing those efforts.
Alan Garber

Katie Lapp
Executive Vice President