The Title IX Liaison position was created by the Department in 2019 in the wake of the Department’s and the University’s mishandling of a decades-long case of repeated sexual harassment by a faculty member in the Department (See the video featuring four of the survivors of the harassment; the Chronicle of Higher Education investigation of the case here and here; the Departmental Climate Change Committee recommendations, the University’s summary of the case).
In the words of the Department’s description of the position, “The Liaison should serve as an accessible point of contact to whom students, staff, and faculty may turn for information and advice regarding behavior or practices that affect their ability to pursue excellence in teaching and learning regardless of background.”
The central focus of the Liaison position is related to Title IX issues concerning sexual and gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence. The position is the Department’s liaison to local Title IX coordinators, the University Title IX Office, and other related campus resources. The Liaison is a neutral point of contact for students, staff, and faculty within the department, supporting individuals in response to concerns regarding sexual and gender harassment. The Liaison is also responsible for disseminating information to members of the Department of Government community about Title IX procedures, as well as the campus resources available to community members with concerns about harassment, discrimination, or other unacceptable behavior or practices.
The Liaison position has also evolved to include broader ombuds-like role to help with other issues that can affect the progress of students through the program as well as the working environment for staff and faculty (e.g. mental health, physical health, family issues). Members of the Department community can come to the Liaison for resources and support about these issues, or to get more information about relevant university policies and procedures. In particular, certain issues that fall under Title IX rules (e.g. discrimination on the basis of pregnancy) may be relevant to students who are, or plan to become, parents.
The Liaison will also work to increase awareness of these issues around the Department through group meetings and one-on-one conversations with students, staff, and faculty, and the dissemination of relevant materials (e.g. the latest research on, and best-practices for, reducing or preventing sexual and gender harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct). In the wake of the External Review Committee's examination of the failure of the University and the Department to prevent or punish multiple instances of sexual harrassment by Prof. Dominguez in the past, it is clear that the Department needs to focus on improving psychological safety such that people who have experienced or know of instances of sexual harassment are comfortable reporting. The Liaison will play a role in the needed Department-wide effort to do so. Another goal is to help develop bystander intervention skills.
The Liaison position is not the sole point of contact for dealing with these issues. It is one among many options. People should feel free to approach anyone inside or outside the Department with whom they feel comfortable sharing their concerns about discrimination, health, and work issues. The Liaison position aims to help create an atmosphere that makes members of the Department more comfortable reporting misconduct and, for students, more comfortable seeking help in dealing with the pressures of the academic profession.
As a Responsible Employee, the Liaison must share with a Title IX Coordinator all known details ("a disclosure"), as relayed to the Liaison by an individual, about potential incidents of sexual or gender-based harassment. However, before revealing details to the Liaison, an individual has the option of working with others, on and/or off campus, who can provide varying degrees of confidentiality (e.g. lawyers, doctors, mental health clinicians, clergy, ombuds). The individual can decide whether or not to disclose a potential incident to the Liaison. Sharing a concern with a Title IX Resource Coordinator or the University Title IX Office is not the same as filing a formal complaint; filing a formal complaint is a separate process handled by the Office for Dispute Resolution. Rather, the Resource Coordinators are a resource to help you make an informed decision about which pathways are right for you. Title IX Resource Coordinators can also arrange interim measures (supports that help members of the Harvard community continue with their studies and work and to participate in campus life) and may facilitate informal resolutions, as appropriate, between the involved parties, with a goal of memorializing a mutually acceptable resolution in writing.
The Liaison is not required to share information with the Title IX system related to non-Title IX issues, (e.g. mental or physical health). Rather the Liaison’s role is to help members of the department find the appropriate resource to deal with these other issues.