(p. A1) CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In a brightly lit classroom here at Harvard, Mia Karvonides was trying to explain to a group of bemused student leaders the difference between a romantic encounter and “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” as the university’s relatively new code of sexual misconduct defines it.
She tried to leaven the legalistic atmosphere at the town-hall-style meeting with realistic-sounding examples, defying gender stereotypes. Jose and Lisa, chemistry students, are working late at night in the lab, she began, when Lisa comes up from behind and kisses Jose on the neck.
Such a surprise move, she suggested, could be the beginning of a sexual misconduct complaint.
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Ms. Karvonides is Harvard’s first Title IX officer, leading a new bureaucracy that oversees how the institution responds to complaints of sexual violence under Title IX, the federal law that governs gender equity in education. She is one of a rapidly growing number of Title IX employees on campuses nationwide, as colleges spend millions to hire law-(p. A3)yers, investigators, case workers, survivor advocates, peer counselors, workshop leaders and other officials to deal with increasing numbers of these complaints.
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The expansion of Title IX bureaucracies — often at great expense — is driven in part by pressure from the federal government, which recently put out a series of policy directives on sexual misconduct on campus. More than 200 colleges and universities are under federal investigation for the way they have handled complaints of sexual misconduct, up from 55 two years ago.
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. . . in a report last week, a national association of professors said that the Title IX bureaucracy had started to infringe on academic freedom, by beginning investigations into faculty members’ lectures and essays.
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At a minimum, federal rules require colleges to designate one Title IX coordinator, at least part time.
Many colleges have gone far beyond that, at a cost ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.
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At the University of California, Berkeley, officials said, Title IX spending has risen by at least $2 million since 2013, though they declined to give the total.
“Certainly, colleges are spending more related to Title IX than ever in history, both preventatively and responsively,” Mr. Sokolow said. He estimated that dealing with an inquiry could cost “six figures,” and that responding to a lawsuit “can run into the high six or even seven figures, not counting a settlement or verdict.”
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Some campuses have adopted “affirmative consent” rules, in effect a written or unwritten contract, requiring a yes before the first kiss and at every step along the way. Harvard has opted instead for what Ms. Karvonides called a more nuanced standard of “unwelcome conduct.”
This has led to criticism by some that the policy is not strong enough, and by others that it could punish behavior as mild as flirting.
“This is ubiquitously on the mind of everyone at Harvard,” said Daniel Banks, the undergraduate council vice president, who helped organize the recent town-hall-style meeting on the subject. Many students have concluded that the best solution is not so much compliance as avoidance.
“You either don’t date at all,” said Daniel Levine, another student leader, “or you’re like a married couple.”
For the full story, see:
ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS. “In Battling Sexual Misconduct, Colleges Build a Bureaucracy.” The New York Times (Weds., MARCH 30, 2016): A1 & A3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 29, 2016, and has the title “Colleges Spending Millions to Deal With Sexual Misconduct Complaints.”)
The AAUP report expressing concerns about how Title IX bureaucracies violate academic freedom and due process, is:
American Association of University Professors (AAUP). “The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX.” Draft Report, March 24, 2016.