University News

This Week in Higher Ed: Nov. 19, 2014

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University News Editors
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

BYU students fight ban on beards

Students at Brigham Young University circulated a petition and staged a protest in support of ending the Mormon-affiliated university’s ban on beards, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Administrators instituted the ban in the 1970s to discourage students from adopting the facial hair popular among hippies staging demonstrations at the time, the Times reported. Though times have changed, the ban has remained in place.

The petition against the ban had garnered hundreds of signatures by Tuesday, the Times reported. Several students said they signed the petition because they felt the ban was antiquated and promoted a narrow view of Mormon identity by the Mormon Church.

“We want the option and ability to express personality through facial hair,” senior Shane Pittson, who drafted the petition, told the Times.

Protestors of the ban bicycled around campus sporting fake beards made of cardboard, the Times reported.

 

Documents reveal Harvard sexual assault policy change

Harvard Medical School changed its policy for handling sexual assault allegations in 2008 following a U.S. Department of Education investigation into a sexual harassment case at the school, the Harvard Crimson reported Tuesday based on federal documents the paper acquired.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights handled the case, in which a female undergraduate alleged that Harvard Medical School mishandled her sexual harassment complaint against a male faculty member, the Crimson reported. It is rare for a case handled by the office to spur a policy change of this order.

In the case, the undergrad claimed that an assistant professor allegedly harassed and assaulted her while she was working in his laboratory. She further claimed that administrators acted in an inappropriate manner by returning intimate photographs of herself to the professor.

The undergrad’s 2008 complaint was one of at least 18 Title IX complaints filed against Harvard since 2002, the Crimson reported.

Most of these other complaints did not result in full federal investigations into Harvard’s compliance with Title IX, though two of the complaints remain ongoing, according to a Crimson review of the federal documents, comprising a survey of more than 7,500 total Title IX complaints reviewed by the Department of Education from 2002 to 2014.

Harvard tied with Columbia for facing the most complaints of any Ivy League institution since 2002, according to the Crimson’s review of the documents.

 

Yale harassment case comes to a close

A five-year-old harassment case against the director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Yale, Michael Simons, has resulted in his removal, the New York Times reported Saturday. Simons was suspended in 2013 for 18 months after being found guilty of sexually harassing a postdoctoral researcher, Annita Di Lorenzo, at the center, the Times reported. After female faculty members raised objections over the incident, he was removed from his post.

The university also found that Simons inappropriately interfered with the professional advancement of Di Lorenzo’s husband, who also works at Yale. The complainant’s husband is also filing a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the New Haven Register reported.

While Simons was removed from his job as chief of cardiology and prohibited from entering any upper-level administrative roles at the time of the hearing, the provost at the time reduced the penalty to just 18 months of suspension, the Times reported.

Simons was also accused of pressuring researchers into submitting grant proposals under the names of other professors and pressuring colleagues against speaking out in opposition to his decision.

“I have never pressured anyone to speak up on my behalf, and was honestly grateful that many colleagues offered to,” Simons told the Times. “Nor did I, or would I ever, encourage anyone to submit material written by another professor.”

The incident has also ignited faculty criticism of Robert Alpern, dean of Yale’s medical school, whom many allege supported the cover-up of Simons’ behavior, the Times reported.