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GSC to Sponsor Student Forum on Harrasment

By Sarah Y. Keightley
Executive Editor

The Graduate Student Council will sponsor a student-run panel Wednesday to discuss the Institute's recently-abridged policies and procedures concerning harassment.

"After the [harassment] guide came out, there was a fair amount of discussion ... but there was not enough discussion between people who had somewhat opposing views to see what middle ground could be reached," said Anand Mehta G, the event's organizer.

The main goal of the forum is "to try to go forward -- understand what exists now and [see] how to improve it," said Mehta, who is also a former GSC president.

The panelists will include Jennifer E. Carson '94, a member of Students against Sexual Harassment; Adam L. Dershowitz G, a member of the Student Association for Freedom of Expression; and Anne S. Tsao '94, Undergraduate Association vice president. There will also be one panelist who has attended one of the training sessions that was created along with harassment guide last fall.

The forum will take place in 6-120, from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Discussion to clarify process

The panelists will try to clarify the policies and procedures which address harassment, Mehta said.

One main policy concern is the distinction between harassment and a restriction on the freedom of expression.

Students have complained that harassment procedures are lacking, with respect to a centralized complaint-handling office, a mechanism for formal grievance procedures, and centralized record keeping of harassment cases, Mehta said. There is nothing comparable to the Committee on Discipline for harassment, he added.

During a training session for supervisors, Associate Provost of Institute Life Samuel J. Keyser gave some reasons for MIT's decentralized system for dealing with harassment, Mehta said.

Keyser explained that a centralized office of five to 10 people would easily be overworked, according to Mehta. The community would shift most of the responsibility and burden to the office, and it would be more difficult to stop milder forms of harassment that handle could be settled on a supervisor level.

The forum seeks to resolve this and other student concerns by finding a "middle ground," Mehta said.

Tsao hopes the forum will raise awareness, along with constructive discussion and debate. They want to hear what students believe the harassment guide does not satisfy, she said.

Mehta organized the event, with help from the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee. The GSC invited several administrators to the forum, and it is open to everyone in the MIT community.

Since the inception of the supervisor training program, five students have gone through training and are legally qualified mediators, Mehta said. But, he continued, Keyser said they cannot act as complaint handlers for legal reasons.