October 22, 2019

Widespread Sexual Harassment and Assault at Harvard Enter National Spotlight as Student Workers Vote to Strike for Better Protections

Bacow Stands by Failed Title IX Process, Raising Questions About His Leadership

Cambridge, MA – A major survey on sexual misconduct, released last week by the American Association of Universities, shows that rates of sexual harassment and assault at Harvard have not decreased in four years, and that less than half of Harvard students surveyed trust that the Title IX office will conduct a fair investigation if they report experiencing unwanted sexual contact. The survey came out just days after student workers began voting to authorize a strike in response to President Bacow’s refusal to offer better protections from harassment and discrimination.

The survey validates what Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW workers have claimed for more than a year — sexual harassment and assault remain pervasive at Harvard, and the campus community cannot rely on the Title IX office to appropriately handle these cases. Harvard has continued to stand by the Title IX office despite numerous reports of neglect. The University claims it implemented improvements in 2017, but last week’s survey provides further proof that the University’s process is not working.

“President Bacow said he is ‘profoundly saddened’ that sexual harassment on this campus has not changed. Yet he remains completely unwilling to listen to student workers’ demands for protections,” said Maddy Jennewein, a Ph.D. candidate in the Virology Department. “It’s time for Bacow to listen to the survivors of harassment, assault, and discrimination on this campus and act immediately to provide the protections we need, including a neutral, independent grievance process.”

“The results of this survey are not surprising, and if anyone in the Administration is surprised, they simply haven’t been listening,” said Vail Kohnert-Yount, a student at the Law School. “We know assault and harassment are rampant, and we know that the university’s existing process for addressing these issues is inadequate. The Administration needs to act now, and provide the new process that we are demanding in our contract.”

Real protections against harassment is one of the key issues that led a majority of student workers at Harvard to vote to have a union. But after a year of negotiating, the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW began voting to authorize a strike because Harvard is refusing to negotiate on three of the core issues student workers are fighting for: protections from harassment and discrimination, adequate healthcare, and fair pay. The services provided by more than 4,000 Harvard University student workers, including teaching classes and completing groundbreaking research, are relied upon by faculty, staff, undergraduate, and graduate students across the University.

Harvard student workers from all departments across all of Harvard’s campuses joined together in April 2018 to form HGSU-UAW. They are fighting for fair pay, better and more affordable healthcare access, and key protections from harassment and discrimination, guaranteed through a union contract.

About UAW
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy. UAW-represented workplaces range from multinational corporations, small manufacturers and state and local governments to colleges and universities, hospitals and private non-profit organizations. The UAW has more than 430,000 active members and more than 580,000 retired members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The UAW has grown recently by 80,000 members nationally, including 17,000 postdoctoral researchers, adjunct professors, and graduate workers in the Northeast just in the last year.