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Student Handbook

Student Handbook: Policies on Harassment and Discrimination

HGSE has adopted the University-wide Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Interim Other Sexual Misconduct Policy. In addition, the University’s Sexual and Gender Based Harassment policy addresses sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct alleged to have occurred between September 1, 2014 and August 14, 2020. Copies of all policies and their associated grievance procedures can be found here. In all such cases, the Harvard University Office for Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) and the Harvard University Title IX Office are responsible for implementing the University’s grievance procedures, which will determine whether a student committed a policy violation. Whenever a formal complaint of sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct is investigated and the University’s grievance procedures result in a finding that a policy violation has occurred, the HGSE Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR) must accept that finding as final and non-reviewable. The only opportunity to appeal the determination of a policy violation is provided within the grievance procedures implemented by the ODR and the Harvard University Title IX Office. Appeals within HGSE pertain only to the decision of the HGSE Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR) in determining discipline.

Other Forms of Harassment and Discrimination

Harassment and discrimination can create an environment in which access to education and employment is diminished. HGSE is committed to principles of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination and seeks to maintain an atmosphere free of harassment by, among other things: condemning acts of harassment when they occur; creating opportunities for HGSE community members to discuss and resolve potential conflicts; offering a curriculum that reflects and respects the contributions, experiences, and concerns of a diverse population; encouraging pedagogies and management strategies that promote active participation by all members of the HGSE community; and promoting diversity within the student body, faculty, administration, and staff.

Harvard University prohibits harassment and discrimination based on race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, age, ancestry, veteran status, disability, or any other legally protected basis. HGSE is committed to maintaining an environment in which students, faculty and staff can work together freely to further education and research. Our community cannot thrive unless each member is accepted as an autonomous individual and is treated with civility.

HGSE is also committed to principles of free inquiry and expression. All members of the HGSE community have the  right  to  hold  and  vigorously  defend  and  promote  their  opinions.  Respect  for  this  right requires that community members must respect the rights of others to express opinions that they may find repugnant.

These principles are consistent. There are obligations of civility and respect for others that underlie rational discourse. Harassment not only shows grave disrespect for the dignity of others but also impedes the free discussion and exchange of ideas.

This policy statement seeks to define the circumstances under which behavior affecting the HGSE community may constitute impermissible harassment or discrimination and grounds for disciplinary action. It also seeks to clarify the point at which protected free expression ends and prohibited harassment or discrimination begins.

The following discussion addresses discrimination and harassment other than sexual and gender-based harassment. Sexual and gender-based harassment are governed by the policies and procedures adopted by the University and implemented by HGSE, and set forth in this Handbook.

HGSE’s policy is to make decisions concerning applicants, students, faculty, and staff on the basis of the individual’s qualifications to contribute to Harvard’s educational objectives and institutional needs. It is also impermissible for any member of the HGSE community to engage in harassment of others. The principle of not harassing or discriminating against individuals based on characteristics such as race, color, sex, gender identify, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, age, ancestry, veteran status, or disability unrelated to job or course of study requirements is consistent with the purposes of a university and with the law.

Harassment or discrimination is particularly objectionable when it involves the abuse of HGSE authority. 

Discrimination and harassment, as described in the following section, may be grounds for disciplinary action such as censure, probation, separation, dismissal, or expulsion.

Physical Harassment

Certain physical acts may constitute harassment, for example: physical intimidation, defacing or damaging property, interference with freedom of movement, and other forms of behavior that violate federal or state civil rights laws. Under HGSE policy, such acts are impermissible whether or not they are based on certain characteristics (such as race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, age, ancestry, veteran status, or disability). Physical harassment is subject to discipline regardless of whether it is accompanied by verbal or symbolic expression.

Purely Verbal or Symbolic Harassment

Certain purely verbal or symbolic expression also may constitute harassment and may violate federal or state civil rights laws. Depending on the circumstances, verbal expressions may be subject to discipline where, from the standpoint of a reasonable person, they (1) are addressed directly to one or more persons; (2) insult, stigmatize, or intimidate those persons; and (3) indicate grave disrespect and intent to demean those persons.

Such harassment, even though purely verbal or symbolic, is contrary to the pursuit of inquiry and education and may be punished under existing procedures because it violates the balance of rights on which the University is based.