Amid a federal investigation into complaints that its handling of sexual assault cases violated civil rights law, Harvard University announced a centralized way to investigate such complaints, the Christian Science Monitor reports. A new sexual and gender-based harassment policy to take effect in the 2014-15 school year comes just over a year after the campus set up a working group to review policies and hired its first university-wide Title IX officer to oversee compliance with the federal law that bans gender discrimination in education.
The policy shift is another indication that institutions are responding to the chorus of concerns about a “rape culture” on college campuses. “It's a really important move … and it's making it very clear that the activism Harvard students have participated in … around Harvard's antiquated policies is actually making change,” says Tracey Vitchers of SAFER (Students Active For Ending Rape) in New York City. A central body of trained investigators will look into complaints by students and report to the Harvard Title IX coordinator. It will report findings and recommend measures to the disciplinary body of the school involved. Harvard encompasses 13 schools.