Harvard Law Professor: Feds’ Position on Sexual-Assault Policies Is ‘Madness’
On Tuesday, the Department of Education said Harvard Law School’s current and past harassment policies and procedures didn’t comply with Title IX requirements, which bar gender discrimination at schools receiving federal financial aid.
The announcement marked the resolution a probe by the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which is investigating campus sexual-assault issues at dozens of schools, including Harvard’s undergraduate college.
While Harvard pledged to make changes, Elizabeth Bartholet, a veteran law professor at Harvard Law who teaches civil rights and family law, called the federal government’s recent campaign against colleges “madness” and said history would prove it wrong on the law. (Prof. Bartholet has been an outspoken opponent of policies that she and other law professors say strip students accused of sexual assault of their due-process rights.)
In an email to Law Blog on Wednesday, she wrote:
The federal government’s decision that Harvard Law School violated Title IX represents nothing more than the government’s flawed view of Title IX law. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which issued the decision, is not the ultimate decision-maker on law. The courts are responsible for interpreting the law. And I trust that the courts will eventually reject the federal government’s current views. The courts’ decisions to date, including the U.S. Supreme Court, show a much more balanced approach to sexual harassment, one which recognizes the importance of vindicating the rights of those victimized by wrongful sexual misconduct, while at the same time protecting the rights of those wrongfully accused, and protecting the rights of individual autonomy in romantic relationships.
Prof. Bartholet said that Harvard University failed to challenge the government, and that other schools throughout the country need to show leadership by resisting the Department of Education’s position.
“I believe that history will demonstrate the federal government’s position to be wrong, that our society will look back on this time as a moment of madness, and that Harvard University will be deeply shamed at the role it played in simply caving to the government’s position,” she wrote.
A spokesman for the Department of Education declined to comment. Neither Harvard University nor Harvard Law School had an immediate comment.