7.16 Student Mistreatment Policies and Procedures

On May 6, 2020, the United States Department of Education issued new Title IX regulations with an effective implementation date of August 14, 2020. As a result, and consistent with Federal regulatory requirements, the below Policy and procedures will be revised and replaced; new versions will be available on the Title IX website as of August 14, 2020.

At Harvard Medical School, we fully embrace the importance of upholding and promoting collaboration and service, respect and dignity, integrity and accountability - for all. These values represent our commitment to ensuring that HMS fosters inclusion and promotes achievement, a culture in which every individual feels both safe and valued. They are core to our mission.

As members of the HMS community, we both strive to live our values and hold each other accountable to them. We communicate with each other and strive for transparency. We also understand that we cannot be bystanders. If we see something, we must say something. We understand that sometimes that can be a daunting undertaking. Our leadership understands and has ensured that there are resources available throughout our community to air grievances and address issues as they arise.
Harvard Medical School takes issues of mistreatment seriously and aspires to a culture of zero tolerance for instances of abuse and disrespect. HMS is committed to maintaining an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment, unprofessional relationships and abuses of authority, and abusive and/or intimidating behavior. It is the strong and consistent policy of Harvard Medical School to treat all members of our community with respect, to provide an environment conducive to learning and working, and to ensure equal access to rights, privileges and opportunities without regard to race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status, disability or any other legally protected category. Harvard expects that all those who interact with members of our community will embrace our community values and comply with our policies, and state and federal laws.



Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment (Title IX)

HMS has adopted the University-wide Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy (“University Policy”) and the University’s Procedures for Handling Complaints Involving Students Pursuant to the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy (“University Procedures”). To the extent any existing HMS policies or procedures interfere with compliance with the University Policy and University Procedures, application of such HMS policies and procedures shall be suspended. The policy can be reviewed on the University Title IX Website.


Non Discrimination

HMS is committed to maintaining an environment free from discrimination. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, age, ancestry, veteran status, disability unrelated to job requirements, genetic information, military service, or any other legally protected basis is prohibited. Please see: https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/assets/Sites/HR/files/Anti-Discrimination%20Policy%20Approved%2012.13.17.pdf


Abusive and/or Intimidating Behavior

HMS is committed to maintaining an environment free from abusive and/or intimidating behavior, defined as harmful mistreatment by works or actions that humiliate, degrade, demean, intimidate and/or threaten an individual or a group. To violate this policy, the behavior must be sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent such that a reasonable person would find it creates inhospitable working conditions and/or impairs the ability to carry out responsibilities to the institution. Please see: 

Unprofessional Relationships and Abuse of Authority

Consensual romantic relationships that might be appropriate in other circumstances have inherent dangers when they occur between any HMS faculty member, fellow, or officer and any person over whom he/she has a professional responsibility (e.g., teacher, advisor, preceptor, or supervisor). Such relationships are fundamentally asymmetric and are considered to be unprofessional, because among other things, they may create an impression of inappropriate or inequitable academic or professional advantage or favoritism that can be destructive in the learning and working environments. These relationships may also be considered an abuse of authority. See https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Departments/Ombuds%20Office/files/HMS%20Unprofessional%20Relationship%20Policy%20071415.pdf

See also Section 4 generally and Section 4.08 specifically: Policy and Procedures for Consideration of Unprofessional Conduct; the HMS Ombuds website.



Online Reporting

Any instances of mistreatment can be reported anonymously via phone or online through the ALERT Reporting Hotline—the Anonymous Learning Environment Reporting Tool. ALERT is a 24/7 anonymous mechanism for reporting mistreatment or any other student concerns. This reporting portal allows students to submit concerns to an outsourced third party that directs reports to the appropriate office: Title IX concerns to the HMS Title IX officer and all other student concerns to the Dean for Students and Director of Student Affairs, copying the Dean for Medical Education.

Reported incidents are treated seriously and responded to appropriately, fairly and expeditiously. HMS has a zero tolerance policy for student mistreatment.

HMS Ombuds Office

The Ombuds Office is a confidential resource and will maintain anonymity.

Course and Clerkship Evaluations

Students are encouraged to report instances of mistreatment that occur during a course or clerkship. Reporting these incidents helps the School and its affiliated hospitals sustain an environment of collegiality and mutual support.

Direct Reporting to Dean for Students

Students have the option, and are encouraged, to report incidents to the immediate attention of the Dean for Students, who will treat such reports with discretion.

Allegations of Sexual and Gender Based Harassment

HMS students wishing to report a violation of the University Policy should begin in all cases by contacting the Harvard University Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) or an HMS Title IX Coordinator.



For reports of non-sexual and gender-based mistreatment: Reports of mistreatment via the online portal, course evaluations, or direct email will be reviewed by the Dean for Students at HMS. When a report of mistreatment is received by the Dean for Students, it will be discussed with the Council of Advisory Deans who will make a determination of whether the event/incident warrants immediate action or should be aggregated with other such events (to limit potential identification of the complainant, to avoid the potential for retaliation) before remediation is pursued. Similarly, when allegations of mistreatment appear on required student course/clerkship surveys, the Office of Education Quality Improvement will collate the reports and make a similar determination of whether immediate action or a delay in releasing the comments to faculty is warranted. The respective parties may consult with the Chair of the Standing Committee on Rights and Responsibilities as necessary.
The Program in Medical Education (PME) works with offices at the affiliated hospitals, e.g., the Center for Professionalism and Peer Support at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, to address complaints of mistreatment. In addition, PME leadership communicates with residency and fellowship directors for complaints against residents and fellows, with division chiefs and/or department chairs for complaints about faculty, and with hospital leaders for complaints about department chairs.
In cases where there is significant uncertainty and ambiguity, the Dean for Students appoints a joint faculty-student ad hoc committee to consider the complaint of mistreatment and relies on the committee’s recommendation for reporting and remediation.
For allegations against students: Cases of alleged harassment by medical students are adjudicated by the Harvard Medical School Promotion and Review Board (see Section 4).
For reports of sexual and gender-based harassment: HMS follows the University’s Procedures for Handling Complaints Involving Students Pursuant to the Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy (“University Procedures”), which can be found here. If the person alleged to have violated the University Policy is not a student, ODR will refer the case to the relevant Title IX Coordinators and other representatives of HMS, as appropriate.
Under the University Procedures, ODR is responsible for determining whether a violation of the University Policy by a student took place. HMS remains responsible for student discipline through the Promotion and Review Board (PRB; see Section 4). Whenever a formal complaint of sexual or gender-based harassment against an HMS student results in the issuance of a final report from the ODR, the PRB must accept as final and non-reviewable the report’s findings of fact and its conclusions as to whether a violation of the University Policy has occurred. The PRB’s disciplinary proceedings against that student based on conduct addressed by the report will proceed with the understanding that the final report carries the same validity as a determination reached by the PRB itself.


A student may seek counsel in a matter involving mistreatment, discrimination, affirmative action, or harassment through an appropriate officer, such as the University Title IX Officer or an HMS Title IX Coordinator; a Society Advisory Dean or Advisor; a faculty advisor/mentor; a course, clerkship or PCE director; the Director of Disability Services; the Dean for Students. Students may wish to consult with the following offices which can provide information, assistance and support.

• Ombuds Offices
- HMS (Section 10.05)
- HU
- Hospitals: The affiliated hospitals and institutions may have their own policies pertaining to your concern. Discuss your issue with the HMS Ombudsperson and/or check with the appropriate office in the institution in which you are rotating.
You may also consult:
• PCE mentors/advisors
• PCE and/or Clerkship Directors


Last updated 08/24/20