7.16 Student Mistreatment Policies and Procedures

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 with all applicable state and federal laws. 



Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and other Sexual Misconduct 

Harvard Medical School has adopted the University-wide Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Interim Other Sexual Misconduct Policy. In addition, the University’s Sexual and Gender Based Harassment policy addresses sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct alleged to have occurred between September 2, 2014 and August 14, 2020.  Copies of all policies and their associated grievance procedures can be found here. To the extent any existing HMS policies or procedures interfere with compliance with these policies and 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: https://hr.hms.harvard.edu/working-hms/policies-procedures/harvard-medical-school-harvard-school-dental-medicine-abusive-andor-intimidating-behavior-policy 

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/they 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 that do not concern sexual or gender-based harassment or other sexual misconduct: Reports 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 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 or other sexual misconduct: Harvard Medical School has adopted the University-wide Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Interim Other Sexual Misconduct Policy. In addition, the University’s Sexual and Gender Based Harassment policy addresses sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct alleged to have occurred between September 2, 2014 and August 14, 2020. Copies of all policies and their associated grievance procedures can be found here.


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 Coordinator or an HMS Title IX Resource 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. 

Office for Dispute Resolution 

University Title IX Office

HMS Title IX Resource Coordinators

Academic Societies 

Office of Learning Resources and Support

Office of Student Affairs 

Office of Recruitment and Multicultural Affairs 

Office for Academic and Research Integrity 

Director of Disability Services (Section 10.03

• 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 


Updated 9/24/20