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Title IX Complaints at Harvard Surge After Pandemic Low, Per Annual Report

By Anjeli R. Macaranas and Mayesha R. Soshi, Crimson Staff Writers

The total number of Title IX complaints and disclosures submitted by Harvard affiliates dropped significantly in fiscal year 2021 before returning to pre-pandemic levels in fiscal year 2022, per a University report released Tuesday.

Harvard released its annual report on sex and gender-based harassment for fiscal year 2021, along with preliminary disclosure data for fiscal year 2022. This marks the first time the University has disclosed Title IX data in roughly 18 months — a delay University Title IX Coordinator Nicole M. Merhill attributed to complications from the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the report, the total number of disclosures of potential sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct decreased significantly between fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021, down to 252 from 449 in 2020. The report attributes the large decrease in disclosures to the campus-wide shift to remote learning during the pandemic.

[By the Numbers: Title IX Complaints at Harvard Since 2015]

“With so much of the Harvard community away from campus for the majority of FY21, the Title IX Office anticipated the subsequent and significant decrease in the volume of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct disclosures shared by members of our community,” Merhill wrote in a letter included in the report.

More than half of all disclosures in fiscal year 2021 came from students, with the College’s Title IX office receiving 37 percent of all disclosures. The report identified 38 percent of potential perpetrators as students, noting that another 35 percent were faculty, staff, or postdoctorates.

Harvard also saw a decrease in the number of formal complaints in fiscal year 2021. Prior to 2021, the number of complaints to the University’s Office of Dispute Resolution stagnated at around 43. But in 2021, that number dropped to 27.

In previous years, students filed the largest proportion of complaints, while in fiscal year 2021, a plurality were filed by staff members.

Upon the University’s return to full capacity in fiscal year 2022, total disclosures to the Title IX Office rose by nearly 90 percent from fiscal year 2021, an increase of 226 disclosures. The number of formal complaints filed with ODR also increased, rising 52 percent from 27 to 41.

The report also included the demographic information of sexual misconduct cases spanning the last six years. Since fiscal year 2015, Harvard officials saw 66 complaints of unwelcome touching other than penetration and conducted 60 investigations into concerns of retaliation.

From fiscal year 2015 to 2022, 63 percent of formal complaints were filed by females against male respondents, while 13 percent were made by male complainants against female respondents.

Despite the delay in releasing data, the University continued to provide services to students and faculty members during the pandemic by hosting trainings, workshops, and presentations. According to the report, Harvard delivered 199 in-person Title IX training sessions and reached a total of 7,638 participants virtually.

Merhill also co-led a working group of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Action Collaborative from 2019 to 2021. The group published guidance on how to utilize campus climate surveys to measure the prevalence of sexual harassment within colleges.

Tuesday’s report marks the last annual report to be released by ODR in conjunction with the Title IX office, which was absorbed by the newly formed Office of Gender Equity in 2021. OGE and ODR are expected to release the full fiscal year 2022 report in February 2023.

—Staff writer Anjeli R. Macaranas can be reached at

—Staff writer Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at

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Gender and SexualityFront FeatureSexual AssaultTitle IX

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By the Numbers: Title IX Complaints at Harvard Since 2015