CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Harvard University has instituted a total ban on professors having sex with undergraduate students, strengthening language the school said did not reflect the faculty’s expectations on appropriate relationships between students and faculty members.
In a statement released Thursday, Harvard said the change came as part of a formal review of its Title IX policy, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Committee on Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures determined that the school’s existing language on “relationships of unequal status” was not strong enough.
“Therefore, the Committee revised the policy to include a clear prohibition to better accord with these expectations,” Harvard said in its statement.
Previously, the school policy prohibited professors from having sex with students under their direct supervision. The policy now specifically bans undergraduates and professors from having any romantic or sexual involvements.
Alison Johnson, a Harvard history professor who led the committee, said the group spent the summer and fall of 2014 consulting with students, faculty and staff to get feedback.
“As part of this process, we thought a lot about the way that power dynamics can contribute to sexual harassment,” Johnson said in an email.
“We wanted to emphasize that the central characteristic of any relationship between a professor and an undergraduate in the College should be pedagogical. In doing this, we were not departing from our current expectations or our current culture, but rather formalizing a longstanding expectation that professors focus on the intellectual development of our students.”