Conduct within the Community

A fundamental goal of the College is to foster an environment in which its members may live and work productively together, making use of the rich resources of the University, in individual and collective pursuit of academic excellence, extracurricular accomplishment, and personal challenge. In the words of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on April 14, 1970, "By accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change."

For this goal to be achieved, the community must be a tolerant and supportive one, characterized by civility and consideration for others. Therefore the standards and expectations of this community are high, as much so in the quality of interpersonal relationships as they are in academic performance.

The rules and regulations affecting undergraduates have been established by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Students are expected to be familiar with those regulations covered in this Handbook that apply to them. The rules of Harvard College provide a framework within which all students are free to pursue their work, under the safest and most equitable conditions the College can create. These rules, then, serve as the guidelines forming the protection of each individual’s well being. Whenever violations of the rules occur, the College will treat them as matters of serious concern because they disrupt the individual lives of students, and the shared life of this community.

It is the expectation of the College that all students, whether or not they are on campus or are currently enrolled as degree candidates, will behave in a mature and responsible manner. This expectation for mature and responsible conduct also encompasses accountability for one’s own well-being, including responsible decision making regarding physical and mental health. Further, the College expects every student to be familiar with the regulations governing membership in the Harvard community, set forth in the pages that follow. Because students are expected to show good judgment and use common sense at all times, not all kinds of misconduct or behavioral standards are codified here. The College takes all these diverse principles very seriously; together they create a foundation for the responsible, respectful society that Harvard seeks to foster among its students, faculty, and staff.

Careful note should be taken that the University is not, and cannot be considered as, a protector or sanctuary from the existing laws of the city, state, or federal government.

Discrimination

Any form of discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status, or disability unrelated to course requirements is contrary to the principles and policies of Harvard University. The College has developed procedures for responding to incidents of discrimination that undergraduates may experience. These procedures are described below.

Complaints of Discrimination

An undergraduate who feels that he or she has been subjected to discrimination as described above should first seek a resolution of the problem through the Resident Dean. These officers may consult with others in the College and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including, for example the Office of the Dean of Harvard College, or the Director of the Accessible Education Office, depending on the nature of the concern.

If the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily by informal methods, more formal routes are available. The student may lodge a complaint with the Office of the Dean of Harvard College or with the designated Assistant Dean. Depending on the circumstances, and in consultation with the student making the complaint, that officer may request that the Dean of Harvard College appoint a special committee to resolve the problem or may refer it to the appropriate agency or office of Harvard College or of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for resolution. Such agencies include, among others, the Administrative Board, the Faculty Council, and the Dean of the Faculty.

If the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily through ordinary channels, either the student or the Dean of Harvard College may refer it to the Dean of the Faculty for final resolution. The Dean of the Faculty holds authority over all departments, committees, commissions, and councils within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The disposition of the Dean of the Faculty will be final.

A student who believes that he or she has been subjected to illegal discrimination ordinarily should exhaust institutional routes for complaints before seeking legal redress under public law.

So that inquiries and complaints may be addressed to the appropriate office, the College maintains a list of individuals to whom questions and complaints may be addressed. The list is available in House Offices, the Freshman Dean’s Office, and the Office of the Dean of Harvard College. Ordinarily, students will want to direct their initial inquiries to their Resident Dean.

Harassment

Recognizing that harassment on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes unacceptable behavior, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and, in particular, the Faculty Council have issued a number of documents setting forth the position of the College on these matters, as well as the procedures that are available to students who believe that they have been the object of such harassment.

It is important to note here that speech not specifically directed against individuals in a harassing way may be protected by traditional safeguards of free speech, even though the comments may cause considerable discomfort or concern to others in the community. The College still takes such incidents seriously and will try, when appropriate, to mediate and help students involved to resolve or deal with the situations in an informal way. On the other hand, any use of electronic mail or the telephone to deliver obscene or harassing messages will be treated as a serious matter and ordinarily will result in disciplinary action by the College (see also Electronic Communication and Obscene or Harassing Telephone Calls).

Faculty Policy Statements on Harassment

Sexual Harassment

The statement of policy by the Faculty Council affirms:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences seeks to maintain a learning and work environment free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a barrier to the educational, scholarly, and research purposes of the University. The determination of what constitutes sexual harassment will vary with the particular circumstances, but it may be described generally as unwanted sexual behavior, such as physical contact or verbal comments or suggestions, which adversely affects the working or learning environment of an individual. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has formal complaint procedures for sexual harassment involving abuse of authority or for the sexual harassment of students by other students. Any member of the FAS community who believes that he or she has been sexually harassed is encouraged to bring the matter to the attention of an appropriate officer of the Faculty.*

* The full text of this statement and a letter from the Dean of the Faculty issued April 1983 discussing professional and unprofessional behavior on the part of officers of the Faculty toward students are available from the designated Assistant Dean of the College, University Hall, First Floor. See also the Faculty’s policy on sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.

Racial Harassment

Harvard College seeks to maintain an instructional and work environment free from racial harassment. The College defines racial harassment as actions on the part of an individual or group that demean or abuse another individual or group because of racial or ethnic background. Such actions may include, but are not restricted to, using racial epithets, making racially derogatory remarks, and using racial stereotypes. Any member of the College community who believes that he or she has been harassed on account of race is encouraged to bring the matter to the attention of his or her Resident Dean or the designated race relations adviser in their House or Freshman Yard.

The College’s investigation and adjudication process is designed to be careful and fair. No person will be reprimanded or discriminated against in any way for initiating an inquiry or complaint in good faith. The rights of any person against whom a complaint is lodged will be protected during the investigation.

Harassment Based on Sexual Orientation

The general policy of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences with respect to harassment on the basis of sexual orientation has been most fully expressed in a statement issued by the Faculty Council in May 1981. That statement, which is available in its entirety from House Offices, the Freshman Dean’s Office, and the designated Assistant Dean of the College, refers directly to the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities (included below) and points out that:

...the Faculty voted specifically that it “regards as implicit in the language of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities that intense personal harassment of such a character as to amount to grave disrespect for the dignity of others be regarded as an unacceptable violation of the personal rights upon which the University is based.”... The Faculty Council has been informed of a number of incidents and circumstances that make it clear that these principles of respect and toleration have not been honored. Gay students have been subject to harassment that can only be seen as evidence of intolerance by other members of our community. The Faculty Council condemns these incidents and wishes to stress its determination that gay students be accorded the respect and protection granted all other members of the University. The Faculty Council... call[s] upon Masters and Senior Tutors [Resident Deans] as well as Deans and other officers of administration to be alert to the need or opportunity to... assist students who report incidents of harassment or discrimination... Complaints can and should be vigorously investigated by the appropriate agencies, including the Administrative Boards, the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities, the Commission of Inquiry, and individual officers of administration.

Advising Resources and Procedures for Resolution

The College encourages undergraduates who believe that they have been the object of harassment due to race, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or gender identity to seek the assistance of the Resident Dean or House Master. In addition, in cases of sexual harassment students may also turn to the designated Assistant Dean of the College, who also serves as Hearing Officer for formal complaints of sexual harassment, or to the House or Yard Designated Tutors/ Proctors for Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment for advice and support. In cases of racial or ethnic harassment, the House or Yard Designated Tutors/Proctors for Race Relations are available for counsel, as is the designated Racial Harassment Hearing Officer in the Office of the Dean of Harvard College. In cases of harassment based on sexual orientation, designated House or Yard Tutors/Proctors and the designated Assistant Dean are available for advice and guidance.

Students may find mediation through University counseling services helpful in some cases of harassing behavior among peers. Formal complaints of harassment against students are referred to the Administrative Board of Harvard College, the Administrative Board of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, or the Student-Faculty Judicial Board, as appropriate.

The College’s investigation and adjudication process is designed to be careful and fair. No person will be reprimanded or discriminated against in any way for initiating an inquiry or complaint in good faith. The rights of any person against whom a complaint is lodged will be protected during the investigation.

Informal Resolution: Advice, Counseling, Mediation

A student may consult any adviser or administrator as described above in order to obtain help in clarifying and resolving a situation of perceived harassment. Throughout the advising process, information will ordinarily be held in confidence by the adviser unless the aggrieved individual agrees that a third party may be informed.

Some reported incidents of harassment involve stereotyping or insensitive or offensive behavior which is the result of miscommunication or lack of communication rather than malicious intent. Calling the matter to the attention of the person or group engaged in such behavior is often enough to bring a stop to it. A person seeking resolution with the help of an adviser may ask the adviser to intervene in order to make the offender aware of his or her behavior. This intervention may result in an apology to the offended person, changes in behavior, and closure of the incident, thus providing the desired resolution. In cases of sexual harassment where an instructional relationship exists between the parties, changing that relationship may also be helpful. On the other hand, if the offensive behavior continues, intervention may be only the beginning of a longer, more complex process of mediation, negotiation, and remedy.

Throughout the process of informal resolution there will be regular communication between the adviser and the person making the inquiry. In addition, the offended person will receive support for handling the emotional or other effects of the incident or inquiry. The College strongly encourages those with questions or concerns to bring them to the attention of an appropriate adviser.

Formal Complaint

Either initially or after having sought an informal resolution, a student who believes that he or she has been the object of harassment may bring a formal complaint. As noted above, formal complaints of harassment against students are referred to the Administrative Board of Harvard College, the Administrative Board of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, or the Student-Faculty Judicial Board, as appropriate. Formal complaints of harassment against faculty or staff are handled according to the process described below. In such a situation, the designated Racial Harassment or Sexual Harassment Hearing Officer can provide advice and assistance to the complainant, both in presenting the case and, where appropriate, by referring him or her to other helpful sources of advice and counsel.

Individuals who wish to file a complaint should contact the Racial Harassment Hearing Officer in the Office of the Dean of Harvard College, the Sexual Harassment Hearing Officer (the Assistant Dean of the College), or their Resident Dean of Freshmen or Allston Burr Resident Dean. Merely discussing a complaint with one of the officers does not commit one to making a formal charge. However, the matter may be pursued by one of the officers of the Faculty if the behavior is determined to be a community matter.

Formal procedures are initiated by filing a written and signed complaint that may be shown to the accused person. The Hearing Officer will consult with the complainant and with the person named in the complaint in order to ascertain the facts and views of both parties. The Hearing Officer or the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences may at any point dismiss a complaint if it is found to be clearly without merit. If such an action is taken, the complainant and the accused will be informed of the factors leading to this decision. If, however, the evidence appears to support the complaint, the Hearing Officer will conduct an inquiry and prepare a report, in confidence, for submission to the Dean, summarizing the relevant evidence. A draft of the report will be shown to the complainant, to the respondent, and to the Dean, in order to give them the opportunity to respond before the final report is made. The final report summarizing the findings will be sent to the complainant, the respondent, and the Dean. Both the complainant and the respondent will have the opportunity to comment on the report in a written statement to the Dean.

Upon consideration of the final report, the Dean of the Faculty may take whatever action is warranted or ask the investigative officer to discuss the matter further and to submit a supplementary report. Final action by the Dean completes the procedure in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Faculty Resolutions

On April 14, 1970, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities, printed below in its entirety (members of the community should also be aware of the Faculty’s Free Speech Guidelines.

Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities

The central functions of an academic community are learning, teaching, research and scholarship. By accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change. The rights and responsibilities exercised within the community must be compatible with these qualities.

The rights of members of the University are not fundamentally different from those of other members of society. The University, however, has a special autonomy and reasoned dissent plays a particularly vital part in its existence. All members of the University have the right to press for action on matters of concern by any appropriate means. The University must affirm, assure and protect the rights of its members to organize and join political associations, convene and conduct public meetings, publicly demonstrate and picket in orderly fashion, advocate, and publicize opinion by print, sign, and voice.

The University places special emphasis, as well, upon certain values which are essential to its nature as an academic community. Among these are freedom of speech and academic freedom, freedom from personal force and violence, and freedom of movement. Interference with any of these freedoms must be regarded as a serious violation of the personal rights upon which the community is based.

Furthermore, although the administrative processes and activities of the University cannot be ends in themselves, such functions are vital to the orderly pursuit of the work of all members of the University. Therefore, interference with members of the University in performance of their normal duties and activities must be regarded as unacceptable obstruction of the essential processes of the University. Theft or willful destruction of the property of the University or of its members must also be considered an unacceptable violation of the rights of individuals or of the community as a whole.

Moreover, it is the responsibility of all members of the academic community to maintain an atmosphere in which violations of rights are unlikely to occur and to develop processes by which these rights are fully assured. In particular, it is the responsibility of officers of administration and instruction to be alert to the needs of the University community; to give full and fair hearing to reasoned expressions of grievances; and to respond promptly and in good faith to such expressions and to widely expressed needs for change. In making decisions which concern the community as a whole or any part of the community, officers are expected to consult with those affected by the decisions. Failures to meet these responsibilities may be profoundly damaging to the life of the University. Therefore, the University community has the right to establish orderly procedures consistent with imperatives of academic freedom to assess the policies and assure the responsibility of those whose decisions affect the life of the University.

No violation of the rights of members of the University, nor any failure to meet responsibilities, should be interpreted as justifying any violation of the rights of members of the University. All members of the community—students and officers alike—should uphold the rights and responsibilities expressed in this Resolution if the University is to be characterized by mutual respect and trust.

Interpretation

It is implicit in the language of the Statement on Rights and Responsibilities that intense personal harassment of such a character as to amount to grave disrespect for the dignity of others be regarded as an unacceptable violation of the personal rights on which the University is based.

Commission of Inquiry

Any student, faculty member, or administrative officer who has a complaint or an inquiry may address it to the Commission of Inquiry, c/o Secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University Hall, Ground Floor (617-495-4780). The Commission will redirect the complaint or query to the appropriate agency of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. When such an agency does not exist, the Commission itself will attempt to aid in resolving the matter. Occasionally, the Commission is instrumental in establishing a new agency for handling recurrent issues. Although the Commission has no power to make rulings, it can play an advocacy role in pressing for the resolution of issues.

Ordinarily, the Commission reports to the community on the matters which come before it, and in doing so, attempts to keep the community informed about factual background material and the resolution of matters of community concern.