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MIT needs explicit policy on sexual harassment

We are writing in response to the consolidated complaint policy which appeared in the May 3 issue of Tech Talk under the title "Complaint Policy Consolidated." We applaud the administration's efforts to look anew at its current policies and procedures for dealing with harassment and academic honesty. We are concerned, however, that a simple compilation of current policies cannot adequately address the issue facing our community. In particular, as MIT has changed from an essentially white male institution to one of greater diversity which includes a significant percentage of women, sexual harassment has become a matter of serious concern. It is an unfortunate reality that the policies described in the Tech Talk articles are not equal to the magnitude of the problem at the Institute.

Several important documents which include significant information on the incidence of sexual harassment have been released over the past ten years. These documents describe a systematic problem which can only be addressed through a more effective Institute-wide policy on sexual harassment.

The following is an outline of the major deficiencies we see with MIT's current policy:

O+ MIT currently lacks specific standardized procedures which clearly document alternatives for action and resolution, as well as possible penalties for harassers. This means that harassed individuals are discouraged from seeking help, no clear provisions are made to stop harassment or keep it from recurring, the burden of stopping the harassment is placed on the victim, harassers are often not deterred without knowledge of possible penalties, and confidentiality throughout the process of pursuing a complaint is not guaranteed.

O+ MIT currently lacks a system for maintaining records of sexual harassment complaints. As a result, it is difficult to assess or document the magnitude of the problem, problem areas in the community (e.g. specific departments or living groups) which require increased educational efforts are difficult to target, multiple incidents of sexual harassment by a particular individual may go unnoticed, staff changes result in the loss of important information, education of the community is impeded by the lack of data on the subject, and, in the absence of public information about the magnitude of the problem, harassment victims often feel isolated and responsible for the abuses against them.

O+ MIT currently lacks a centralized office to deal with sexual harassment complaints. This means that individuals who have been harassed often do not know where to seek help, community awareness of the problem is inhibited, individuals without appropriate training about the nature and complexity of sexual harassment are called upon to provide advice, and individuals who have been harassed are directed from office to office, often leading complainants to feel frustrated and powerless.

As a group of graduate and undergraduate students and staff who are deeply concerned about this issue, we have drafted a proposal for a workable sexual harassment policy at MIT which addresses each of the points raised above. The proposed policy has been circulated amongst members of the administration, and was presented to President Paul E. Gray '54 last week. We invite the support of all members of the Institute community in working toward the elimination of sexual harassment at MIT.

Linda Baston G->

Deb Borkovitz G->

and nine others->

for the Ad Hoc Committee on->

Sexual Harassment->

Kristine Holley, Staff->

Rebecca Kaplan 1->

Pam Loprest G->

Jean Marie Moran 2->

Patricia Pereira 4->

Ann Russo, Instructor->

Barbara Schulman, Staff->

Virginia Merlini 4->

Sarita Ghandi 4->