Last week, a group of Harvard University Law faculty members criticized the school for its new sexual misconduct policy. They say the policy is heavily slanted against the accused.
Harvard is one of 85 colleges currently under federal investigation for possible violations of the Title IX gender equity law. Universities whose sexual misconduct policies are deemed inadequate could lose federal funding.
The law professors suggested that the fear of losing funds inspired Harvard to implement its new sexual assault policy, which they say violates basic constitutional rights, including the accused’s right to seek representation, confront witnesses and mount a defense.
The professors also criticized the centralization of the entire trial process into a single Title IX compliance office, not a “structurally impartial” department.
Proponents of the Harvard’s policy argue that it fosters a nondiscriminatory environment for sexual assault survivors. Many argue that the provisions don’t go far enough, saying they would like to enact an affirmative consent provision such as the “yes means yes” law recently implemented in California.
What happens at Harvard may become a precedent for schools across the country. We firmly support Title IX and the ongoing nationwide reforms to universities’ sexual misconduct policies. To that end, Harvard and other institutions should adopt a “yes means yes” provision. However, to further the interests of due process, we would also like Harvard to supply the accused with no-cost representation, as low-income defendants currently may not be able to afford an attorney.