Harvard University forced a victim of dating violence to live in the same dorm as her abuser for several months and did not act on multiple reports of ongoing harassment by him, a new lawsuit claims.
Alyssa Leader, a 2015 graduate of Harvard College, the university’s undergraduate school, filed her suit against the school on Wednesday in federal court in Massachusetts. When Leader formally complained of abuse and sexual assault by a “John Doe 1,” he harassed her in retaliation, the suit states, claiming Harvard showed “deliberate indifference” towards her reports of Doe’s “retaliatory conduct.”
The suit is the latest in a string of allegations in recent years that Harvard has mishandled sexual violence cases by using outdated policies and lopsided procedures that favor alleged assailants and making insensitive comments to students who report assaults... The details in Leader’s suit are highly similar to a widely read 2014 column titled “Dear Harvard, you win,” which described a woman’s unsuccessful attempts over seven months to have Harvard move her assailant out of her dorm. Leader said she faced a similar struggle during a six-month-long investigation into her report.
“Unfortunately, this situation is not at all unique to me or to the writer of that article,” Leader told The Huffington Post in an interview Wednesday.
Leader and Doe, who were in the same year in school, dated through March 2014. Leader describes their yearlong relationship as an abusive one, in which Doe coerced her into sex and got violent when she refused... She said she reported the abuse multiple times to the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in 2013 during the relationship. She also said she reported Doe’s harassment of her in 2014, after they broke up, and again in January 2015. Leader reported the abuse to her residence dean in November 2014 and was told it would not be possible to remove Doe from the dorm where they both lived, the suit says.
“There was so much ongoing harassment by the perpetrator,” said Alex S. Zalkin, an attorney for Leader. “It was constantly brought to Harvard’s attention, but they didn’t do anything; they ignored her.”.. However, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, the university said Title IX coordinators “are responsible for identifying reasonable and appropriate interim measures designed to support and protect the Initiating Party or the University community.” Those measures could include “restrictions on contact; course-schedule or work-schedule alteration; changes in housing; leaves of absence; or increased monitoring of certain areas of the campus.” Leader contends the university did none of that.
Doe sexually assaulted and harassed Leader, the suit says, “implementing intimidation, coercion and manipulation,” most of which took place at Cabot House, a Harvard dorm where they both lived. Sometimes Doe would start arguments with Leader at the building’s cafe, where they both worked, the suit claims.
Leader approached Doe in September 2014, after their relationship ended, to ask him to treat his new girlfriend better than he treated her, the suit says. Doe replied that that wouldn’t be an issue because his new partner did not “set an expectation” like Leader had by having a sexual encounter with him before they began dating. He later made harassing remarks to Leader at work, according to the suit, such as, “You know, if you have to coerce someone, you’re doing it wrong.”.. Leader officially filed a school complaint against Doe for abuse, sexual assault and harassment in February 2015, prompting a university investigation. Her main goal was to have him removed from her dorm, she told HuffPost.
“I think his behavior was unacceptable, but my priority was just to have him gone from my home and workplace,” Leader said. Any further punishment was up to Harvard, she added.
Leader stopped going to her dining hall, skipped shifts at work and stopped sleeping at Cabot House out of fear. The suit says she reported additional harassment once in March and twice in April — including threatening comments, Doe’s visits to her workplace and encounters where he stared at her.Doe openly discussed the details of the case with other students on campus who knew both of them, according to the complaint... The suit also accuses Harvard of “premises liability,” claiming Harvard knew it was allowing Doe to continue to freely roam the Cabot House property where Leader said he had abused, assaulted and harassed her.
Her reports of retaliation to the school administrators went nowhere, Leader said, so she ultimately went to Harvard police and reported sexual assaults and harassment on April 27. Leader obtained a court-ordered restraining order against Doe at the end of April. The same day she obtained the order, the suit states, Harvard moved Doe out of Cabot House... Leader had previously asked Miller, the school’s Title IX coordinator, if she could get a no contact order against Doe. Miller replied that retaliation rules in place for Title IX investigations were essentially the same as a no contact order, the suit contends. But when Leader got the restraining order, Miller told her it “was the best decision you could make” and that she “should have done it from the start,” according to the lawsuit... Doe has admitted to a number of actions in the case, Leader said, citing conversations with school officials. He acknowledged making verbal threats to Leader, openly discussing the case with people who knew them, showing up to her work during the investigation and acting violently in the relationship, Leader said...But Harvard found Doe not responsible for all claims of abuse, sexual assault and harassment on July 17, 2015. Leader essentially had no way to appeal for a different decision, because appeals are only permitted if the alleged victim can point to a procedural error.. “For a long time I felt like maybe it had been a mistake or maybe something had gone wrong,” Leader told HuffPost. “But after I graduated I kept hearing stories of people in similar situations as mine or more difficult situations.”
If they’re not held accountable at school, what’s to stop them from becoming the villain of another woman’s #MeToo story once they enter the work force?
Among other changes, her proposed rule would require schools to dismiss all incidents that do not meet an extremely narrow definition of sexual harassment: “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access” to education. As Dana Bolger, a co-founder of Know Your IX, a national youth-led campaign against sexual violence, has pointed out, some courts have ruled that a rape does not meet this standard.
The rule would essentially eliminate schools’ responsibility to respond to incidents off campus, which make up 95 percent of sexual assaults of female students, according to the Department of Justice. Moreover, schools would not be legally responsible for addressing any sexual harassment that is not reported to a school official designated to deal with that issue.
The overall effect of the proposed rule — which supporters say would restore due-process rights to those accused of sexual assault and harassment — would be to make reporting, already an uphill battle for raped and harassed students, feel even more futile.
..“It is completely illogical that at a time when the public is finally coming to terms with the reality of how prevalent sexual violence is thanks to initiatives like Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement, the DeVos administration is simultaneously attempting to weaken Title IX protections for survivors.”
It’s safe to assume that most perpetrators of sexual violence who have come to public notice through #MeToo didn’t suddenly become abusers after landing jobs in newsrooms and board rooms and on movie sets. Their idea that one can abuse with impunity is learned, and in many cases it is learned where most things are learned — at school.
Violent sexual behavior that goes unchecked during college does not reach a natural end at graduation. In fact, many perpetrators of sexual violence are serial offenders: Of men who acknowledge using sexually violent or coercive behaviors, around one in five report committing repeat assaults. Another study found that men reporting a history of sexually aggressive behavior commit, on average, more than six sexual assaults.
Examples of school perpetrators who skirted accountability and then offended after graduation are already emerging. Jameis Winston, who was accused of rape as a student at Florida State University and is now a professional football player, reached a settlement with an Uber driver who said he sexually assaulted her in her car in 2016.
But the path from perpetrator of school sexual violence to workplace abuser need not be inevitable. Interventions including cognitive behavioral therapy have proved to be highly effective in preventing perpetrators from reoffending. Far from being unfair, responding seriously to perpetrators of school sexual violence is tough kindness. As the world grows increasingly intolerant of violent sexual behavior, early intervention and clear messages about appropriate behavior can prevent perpetrators from reoffending and facing more long-term career, legal and personal consequences.
While I obtained a restraining order against the man who assaulted me in college, he graduated and got a coveted job, where he’ll only have more and more power as time goes on. While I hope he’ll never become the villain of another woman’s #MeToo story, I am not optimistic. The proposed rules make it even more likely that men like him will leave their college campuses and enter the work force believing they can abuse women and be assured “Nothing wrong occurred.”
As a Harvard alumna and a survivor of sexual assault, I applaud Leaders’ activism to hold our institution accountable. Not just the undergraduate colleague but particularly Harvard Business School, where men demean, degrade, harass and assault women on a scale I’ve never witnessed prior to enrolling in classes there. These are the men going on to run America and the world’s economies… woe to the women who will suffer their crimes.
As Harvard, Notre Dame, Georgetown and others pledge to increase diversity, admitting the children of alumni at higher rates complicates their efforts
Top colleges have pledged to become more socioeconomically diverse, but the admissions edge many give to children of alumni may make that goal harder to achieve.
.. At the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, the admission rate for legacies is about double the rate for the overall applicant pool, according to data from the schools. At Princeton University, legacies are admitted at four times the general rate, or roughly 30% compared with about 7% overall over the past five years, the school says.
Legacy applicants at Harvard University were five times as likely to be admitted as non-legacies, according to an analysis of admissions data from 2010 through 2015. The numbers—33.6% for legacies and 5.9% for those without parental ties—were submitted in a June court filing for a case claiming Asian students are being discriminated against in the name of greater diversity at the school.
.. Diversity initiatives have led to complaints by white students that minority students have a leg up. Meanwhile, highly qualified Asian students say they should get more slots based on academics. Both say long-standing traditions like legacy admissions soak up coveted spots.
Advocates for considering legacy status argue that favoring the children—and, in some cases, grandchildren—of graduates helps maintain an engaged and generous alumni base and lets students serve as ambassadors to new campus arrivals.
Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack has said legacy admissions help perpetuate “a Cornell family that goes on for generations.” In an interview with the student newspaper in May, she said the practice isn’t about giving preference or an advantage to legacies, but such a designation is one of many “balancing factors.”
A handful of elite schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology, don’t consider legacy status in admissions... calling for a dozen schools, including Brown University, Duke University, Swarthmore College and Emory University, to review their legacy admission policies... Legacy preferences, which historians say were originally developed to keep Jewish students from prestigious colleges in the early 1900s, generally benefit applicants who are wealthy and white.. Calling legacy admissions a “classist, racist institution,” Brookings Institution senior fellow Richard Reeves said, “There is an inescapable hypocrisy of an institution saying, ‘We are going to be open and meritocratic,’ and maintaining a hereditary privilege.”.. Legacies made up roughly 5% of the applicant pool and 15% of this fall’s entering class at the University of Virginia... “ ‘Special consideration’ refers to the longstanding practice of the dean of admissions and his staff carefully reviewing applicants whose parents or grandparents are alumni before final decisions are made.. say much of the differential in admission rates can be explained by legacy applicants’ higher academic credentials and cultural fit. They say legacies also enroll at higher rates than other accepted students.
“You don’t necessarily want a student body made up entirely of bookworms . . .” This point is often made in defense of race-conscious admissions policies, but it always seems to me to be an attack on a strawman. Who argues that colleges should ignore musical talent, charitable works, or athletic ability? And where’s the evidence that positive non-academic qualities are generally correlated with race? From the proposition that not all students should be bookworms, it does not follow that therefore colleges should put a thumb on the scale for whites over Asians and for blacks and Hispanics over whites. But that logic would have to be valid for Boot’s argument to be pertinent to the controversy.
.. The Supreme Court, by the way, has rejected this kind of remedial justification for racial preferences, in part because it frowns, for obvious reasons, on using race as a proxy for other variables.
.. “There is, moreover, value in a diverse student body. You learn more about life if you go to class with people who are different from you — who have different abilities, different geographic origins, different social classes, different sexualities, different religions, different political views and, yes, different ethnicities.”
.. Boot has only so much space to make his case, so it would be unfair to infer from the fact that he does not substantiate or specify the alleged benefits of this diversity that it cannot be done.
.. Are we really supposed to believe that Harvard is trying with all its might to ensure that the campus has plenty of Pentecostals, Italian-Americans, and Trump supporters?