Cases Involving Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment

The Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) has been charged with implementing procedures for students pursuant to the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy (“Policy”). You can find more about their process here. This page describes how the Administrative Board process and the ODR process intersect.

The College recognizes that deciding whether or not to file a complaint against another student alleging violation(s) of the University’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy can involve many factors. There are many resources you can consult as you make this decision, including the College Title IX Coordinators, the Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution (ODR), and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR). These individuals and offices can present the options available to you and answer any questions you may have about the University’s policy or procedures. The ODR and the College Title IX Coordinators can talk with you about whether an informal resolution is possible in your case, and they can discuss with you the interim measures that can be put in place to support and protect you. You can communicate with both ODR and the College Title IX Coordinators even if you decide not to file a complaint.

Students may be concerned that the circumstances under which the incident occurred might compromise their ability to bring an allegation forward or that the circumstances may subject them to disciplinary action. The College’s focus in a case of sexual and/or gender-based harassment is on the allegations that constitute the violation, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. Students are encouraged to come forward if they believe the University Policy has been violated.

When a complaint involves allegations of serious criminal conduct, we advise students to seek legal counsel before making any written or oral statements to the College. The College’s disciplinary process is pedagogical rather than judicial; however, the Board advises students to seek legal advice about how the College’s disciplinary process could affect any criminal case in which they may be involved. In the ODR process, a student may seek the assistance of a personal advisor of his or her choice, including an officer of the FAS or an outside attorney. Ordinarily, if a complaint is being pursued through the criminal justice system, the ODR may assess the timing of the investigation so that it does not compromise the integrity of the criminal investigation.

Administrative Board Process for Cases involving ODR

Filing of a Formal Complaint

The formal complaint process begins when a student, faculty member, staff member or third party files a written complaint of sexual or gender-based harassment with the ODR. The person bringing forward the allegation is called the Complainant (or a Reporter, if it is a third party filing on behalf of a potential Complainant). The student against whom the complaint is brought is called the Respondent. Once a complaint is received, the ODR will do an initial review of the allegations with the aim of determining whether the allegation, if true, would violate the University’s Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment policy. If the ODR decides that the allegation, if true, would violate this policy, an investigation is initiated. At this point, the Respondent is informed by the ODR of the allegation, and ordinarily, the Respondent has a week in which to submit a written response to the complaint. At this time the Secretary of the Administrative Board will also meet with the Respondent to explain the disciplinary process that may follow the ODR investigation and the range of possible sanctions under the College’s policies. The Complainant may choose to meet with the Secretary at any point to learn about the Board process that may follow the ODR investigation, including possible outcomes.

ODR Investigation

The ODR is responsible for investigating the allegation and issuing a final report of its findings. The Administrative Board’s only involvement at this point is in selecting one of its members to serve as the Liaison between the Administrative Board and the Investigator; the Liaison will keep the Administrative Board apprised of the investigation and is available to answer the Investigator’s questions about FAS policies and student life at the College. Both the Complainant and the Respondent may choose personal advisors who can accompany them to any interviews with ODR and can offer advice through the process. In the ODR process, a student may seek the assistance of a personal advisor of his or her choice, including an officer of the FAS or an outside attorney. The Resident Deans of Freshmen or the Allston Burr Assistant Deans of Harvard College in the Houses are also available as resources for the Complainant and Respondent and to assist with implementing interim measures within a House or Yard community. They are also able to play the role of personal advisor, should the student request it.

ODR Finding and Report

At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator will make a finding of fact and determine whether or not there was a violation of the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy. The Investigator will give the Complainant and the Respondent a draft of the report, and each then has the opportunity to respond to the draft. The final report will be given to the Complainant and Respondent and the College Title IX Coordinator. Both the Complainant and the Respondent may appeal the decision of the Investigator if they feel that a procedural error occurred, which may change the outcome of the decision, or that there is substantive and relevant new information that was not available at the time of the investigation and may change the outcome of the decision.

During the course of an ODR investigation, if it is determined that other School or University conduct policies may be implicated, the matter may be referred to the Secretary of the Administrative Board. This may occur at any point, whether or not a violation of the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy has been found.

ODR Report sent to Ad Board

Once the final report has been given to the Complainant, the Respondent and the Title IX Coordinator, the report from the ODR is forwarded to the Administrative Board for consideration of the disciplinary response, since the Faculty alone has the authority to administer discipline to students. The Administrative Board (which enforces the Faculty’s rules) must accept as final the ODR report’s findings of fact and its conclusions about whether or not there was a violation of University Policy; the Board is responsible for the administration of discipline as appropriate.

After receiving the report, the Secretary of the Administrative Board will meet with the Respondent to discuss possible disciplinary outcomes. The Complainant may also meet with the Secretary at any time. Once the case enters the Administrative Board process, both the Complainant (if a Harvard College student) and the Respondent will have an official Board Representative on the Administrative Board who will serve as a liaison between the student and the College. If the Complainant is not a student at Harvard College, the Secretary of the Administrative Board or his or her designee will serve as the Complainant’s Board Representative.

Submission of Statements to Administrative Board

Within three days of receiving the final report from the ODR, the Complainant and the Respondent may each submit a written statement to the Secretary of the Administrative Board addressing the possible outcomes of the disciplinary process. These written statements may not challenge the validity of the findings of the final report, and they may not introduce facts that could have been presented to the Investigator.

The final report from the ODR, plus any statements from the Complainant and Respondent, will be sent to the full Administrative Board, which will meet and decide the disciplinary outcome of the case.

Presentation of Case

At the conclusion of the investigation, the case will be presented to the full Board at one of its regularly scheduled meetings. All documents will be distributed to the membership in advance of the meeting, including the Final Report from ODR, the exhibits included with the report, and the statements submitted to the Board (if the students choose to submit statements). During the presentation of the case to the full Board, your Board Representative will convey any other additional information that you wish the Board to know. 

Members of the Board will have read the materials before discussing and deciding the case. As noted above, you also will have received a copy of, or have had the opportunity to review, all materials distributed to the Board.

Every Board hearing of a disciplinary case begins with an oral summary of the allegations by either the Resident Dean of Freshmen, Allston Burr Assistant Dean, Board Representative, representatives from ODR (if relevant), fact finder (if one was appointed), or subcommittee chair (if one was appointed), letting the student’s statement and any other relevant documents speak for themselves. Any member of the Board may offer a recommendation for action, or motion (there is sometimes a range of motions offered), and, after the discussion, the chair will call for a vote.

The fact finder (if one was appointed), your Resident Dean of Freshmen or Allston Burr Assistant Dean, and your Board Representative may not vote on the case. If you chose to work with a personal adviser and that person is also a member of the Board, your personal adviser may not be present for the presentation of the case and may not vote.

Conclusion

Cases are decided by a majority vote of the members present and eligible to vote; however, an outcome of requirement to withdraw requires a two-thirds, rather than simple, majority. Once an outcome has been reached, the Respondent will be notified of the Board’s finding by his or her Board Representative, and his or her Resident Dean of Freshmen or Allston Burr Assistant Dean will send a letter confirming the Board’s decision in writing.

The Board’s proceedings and decisions are confidential and communicated only to those with a need to know. The Respondent will be notified of the decision of the Board, and in certain circumstances, the College notifies the Complainant of the sanctions, as well. If the Complainant is not a student at the College, he or she will be notified by the Secretary of the Board. Please consult the Secretary of the Administrative Board if you have any questions related to this policy.

After the case has been decided, all materials reviewed by the Board members are destroyed. Regardless of the outcome, a redacted copy of the confidential final report from ODR as well as student statements to the Administrative Board will be placed in a sealed envelope in both students’ College files. These documents are part of students’ educational records as defined and protected by federal law.

If you have questions about the process or the procedures of the Board, you should contact your Allston Burr Assistant Dean, Resident Dean of Freshmen, Board Representative, or the Secretary of the Administrative Board. The Secretary of the Administrative Board can be reached at adboard@fas.harvard.edu, or 617-384-7239. Further information about the Administrative Board is available at www.adboard.fas.harvard.edu and in the Handbook for Students.