Faculty Hear Revised Sexual Assault Policy, Potential Ph.D. Program

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences heard recommendations for FAS’s revised sexual harassment policy and procedures as well as a proposal for a new Ph.D. program in “Population Health Sciences” at the body’s final meeting of the semester on Tuesday.

History professor Alison F. Johnson, who chaired the committee that produced the proposed changes to the interim measures, called attention in particular to a change from the current policy that, if the recommendations are approved, would put faculty and staff cases of sexual misconduct under the jurisdiction of the Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution, the same new body that oversees investigations of student misconduct cases.

In the earlier version of the policy, the Office for Faculty Affairs, an internal FAS body, conducted the investigations.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith called the change “great,” saying, “it’s perfect that we have one mechanism to gather facts.”

Earlier this fall, University Title IX Officer Mia Karvonides and Smith both said that faculty and staff procedures had not been moved under ODR because the office had to prioritize student cases.


In addition to the transfer of investigatory authority to the ODR, Johnson called a number of her committee’s other changes “striking,” including the absolute prohibition of relationships between faculty members and undergraduates. Cases of quid pro quo sexual assault—when sexual acts are requested in exchange for some benefit—within extracurricular student organizations would be subject to the FAS policy, as would cases of sexual assault against individuals outside of the Harvard community.

Johnson said her committee spent about 40 hours throughout the semester collecting community feedback before making its changes. There was no discussion of the policy following Johnson’s presentation. She said that she has yet to send final recommendations to Smith.

Tuesday’s meeting also featured a presentation on a potential new Ph.D. program in population health sciences, a vote on which is expected at the next Faculty meeting, scheduled for February.

The new degree would unite five doctorate of science programs within the School of Public Health in the departments of Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Global Health and Population, Nutrition, and Social and Behavioral Sciences into a single, Ph.D.-awarding program.

Several professors spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, stressing the value of the interdisciplinary nature of the proposed degree.

The Faculty also unanimously approved a change to legislation regarding student expulsions, establishing a requirement of a two-thirds vote of the members of the Faculty Council who are present at a given meeting as the threshold for dismissal or expulsion. The line “who are present” was absent from the previous language.

Smith also told Faculty that he had convened a “leadership group” to oversee the “detailed design” planning of the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences building in Allston, moving forward from the conceptual stage. SEAS professors Robert D. Howe and David C. Parkes will spearhead the planning.

The meeting also included Faculty approval of preliminary courses for the 2015 Harvard Summer School.

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.