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Editorial -- Harassment Guide a Valuable Resource

Dealing with Harassment at MIT is a valuable resource for victims of harassment. Despite the problems with the Institute's harassment policy, the guide itself does an excellent job bringing together information necessary -- not only for the complainant, but also the respondent, complaint handlers, and bystanders.

Although its length may seem intimidating, the guide begins with a table that identifies all the people at MIT who deal with harassment and what services they can offer. This comprehensive listing can only make it easier for victims of harassment to find help.

The guide also recognizes that there are many forms of harassment that should be addressed, but do not warrant a formal grievance. Lengthy sections describe preventative measures to stop offending behavior without creating confrontation between individuals involved. Procedures for formal grievances are also explained in great detail.

Unfortunately, the guide sidesteps some important issues. It correctly explains that there is a wide range of ambiguous behavior that will offend some people but not others, and it offers many approaches for victims and complaint handlers to take. But its discussion of freedom of speech is lacking. The guide suggests that people who have "offended others by their manner of expression should consider immediately stopping the offense and apologizing."

The guide offers little reassurance that constitutional guarantees have been considered. Even if it does not prohibit offensive speech outright, it never explains that the Constitution guarantees a wide range of freedoms, including the right to say things that offend other people. Freedom of expression is central to the role of the university and the guide should say so clearly and unambiguously.

Despite some equivocation on freedom of speech, Dealing with Harassment at MIT is a step forward for the handling of harassment. Its clear delineation of procedures and resources for stopping and preventing harassment should prove useful to victims of harassment and the entire community.