A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf 

To HKS’s Students, Faculty, Staff, and Fellows,

As Provost Alan Garber just announced in his email message, Harvard’s development of new policies regarding professional conduct has reached an important milestone. The University’s leadership has now formulated draft policies based on the recommendations of the Discrimination and Harassment Working Groups and Steering Committee. I am grateful to all the faculty, students, and staff from across Harvard who participated in this intensive process, and especially to our HKS colleagues who played key roles—Erica Chenoweth, Suzanne Cooper, David Deming, and Sarah Wald.

Now is the time for further input from the Harvard community. 

I hope you will take the time to read the University’s draft policies, so that you understand the standards of professional conduct that Harvard is clarifying and some of the new procedures being proposed to help meet those standards.

At HKS, we will be hosting two sessions over the next month for you to comment and propose any changes you think would be appropriate:

  • Wednesday, April 13, 9:00 to 10:00 am, Wexner 434AB
  • Tuesday, May 3, 9:00 to 10:00 am, Allison Dining Room

We recognize that the semester will be ending soon, and we want to give people who have reactions now a chance to offer their feedback. We will also host sessions over the summer and in September. 

In addition, you can send your comments to the University-wide mailbox communitymisconductpolicies@harvard.edu or to an HKS mailbox we’ve created for this purpose: commentsondraftpolicies@hks.harvard.edu. Comments collected across Harvard will be used by the University’s leadership to finalize the policies later in the fall.

As Provost Garber emphasized in his message, however, “policies and procedures alone cannot cultivate the kinds of culture and community that we want to see.” Each of us needs to show our respect for our colleagues and help “foster a community in which every member can thrive.”

Let me very briefly summarize the three sets of policies under consideration now:

Non-Discrimination: Harvard prohibits discrimination based on age, race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and gender expression, as well as pregnancy), genetic information, ancestry, religion, caste, creed, veteran status, disability, military service, and sexual orientation. Discrimination is adverse treatment of an individual and can occur, in both an employment context and education context, as disparate treatment or harassment. The proposed procedures include both informal resolution and formal complaints.

Anti-Bullying: Interactions at Harvard should be based on mutual respect while allowing for academic freedom, reasoned disagreement, and legitimate feedback. Bullying, hostile and abusive behavior, and power-based harassment undermine this principle and hinder educational and professional goals. Such behavior, as defined in the new policy, is prohibited. The policy aims to educate community members about bullying and to provide informal and formal mechanisms for addressing it.

Sexual Misconduct: Harvard is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy environment in which no one is harassed or discriminated against based on their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Policies on sexual misconduct must be consistent with federal law and regulations, so both the existing and proposed approaches include “Interim Title IX Policies” and “Interim Other Sexual Misconduct Policies,” with the latter addressing issues that fall outside the current federal approach to Title IX. 

While it will take some time to finalize the University’s new policies and procedures, I urge anyone who believes they are being subject to misconduct by another member of the Harvard community to report their experience to their program director (for students), Human Resources representative (for staff) or the Academic Deans (for faculty). If your concern is related to sexual misconduct, please talk with one of our Title IX resource coordinators: Tim Burke, Suzanne Cooper, Pam Cozza, Amy Davies, and Sarah Wald. Speaking with a Title IX resource coordinator, or with any of the people listed for other concerns, is the first step to understanding resources and options; it does not require you to file a formal complaint.

By commenting thoughtfully in coming months on the draft policies—by attending an input session or emailing the Harvard or HKS mailboxes—and by always treating others in the ways we want to be treated ourselves, we can create the HKS and Harvard communities that meet our values most fully and advance our mission most effectively. I look forward to continuing to work with you toward that goal.