Harvard Bans Sex Between Professors and Students


Harvard University now has an official policy banning sexual relationships between professors and undergraduate students for the first time in the Ivy League school’s 350 year history.

The change in policy was spurred by the U.S. Department of Education’s recent investigations into the way several universities, including Harvard, managed reports of sexual abuse and Title IX violations. Harvard was indeed found to be in violation of Title IX and was required to agree to new requirements to more appropriately handle reports of sexual abuse and assault.

A review committee consisting of members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences began working on a new policy upon finding the previous policy contained “existing language on relationships of unequal status that did not explicitly reflect the faculty’s expectations of what constituted an appropriate relationship between undergraduate students and faculty members.”

History professor, Alison Johnson, helmed the committee’s review of Harvard’s policy and worked with the panel of her peers to create a new, more specific policy. She told Bloomberg, “Undergraduates come to college to learn from us. We’re not here to have sexual or romantic relationships with them.”

Johnson also told the Washington Post, “Nobody said, ‘You’re treating me like a child, trampling on my civil rights I’ll have sex with whomever I please.’ That would be the only argument against it – that it’s paternalistic. I like to think of it not as telling students who they may not have sex with, but telling faculty who they may not have sex with.”

A media statement from Harvard read:

“As part of a formal process to review Harvard University’s Title IX policy, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee on Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures, led by Professor Alison Johnson, determined that the existing language on relationships of unequal status did not explicitly reflect the faculty’s expectations of what constituted an appropriate relationship between undergraduate students and faculty members. Therefore, the Committee revised the policy to include a clear prohibition to better accord with these expectations.”

Harvard joins Yale University and the University of Connecticut in formal bans against any sexual relationship between student and teacher. More colleges and universities are working on revamping similar policies, with the most recent being Arizona State University’s policy change in January.

University officials did not expound upon the new policy details in terms of what consequences professors are subject to should they violate the new rules, according to the Boston Globe.

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