Harvard law students trying to keep Brett Kavanaugh off campus are filing formal complaints with the college, arguing that welcoming the embattled Supreme Court nominee back would violate Harvard’s policies against sexual harassment.
About 50 students have signed a petition saying they have filed Title IX complaints against Kavanaugh, said Jacqueline Kellogg, a Harvard law student leading the effort. Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination that requires schools to address sexual harassment on campus.
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Kellogg said she did not know how many of those signing the petition have actually filed complaints. Harvard Law School did not respond to a request for comment.
The students’ Title IX campaign started before Harvard announced earlier this week that Kavanaugh will no longer teach his law course, “The Supreme Court Since 2005,” as scheduled next semester.
Kavanaugh, a Yale Law School graduate, had taught at Harvard Law School since 2008, but students protested in recent weeks, demanding the college investigate multiple sexual assault allegations lodged against the nominee during the confirmation process. During a tense Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week in which Kavanaugh pushed back against the allegations, he lamented that because of the high-profile allegations “I may never be able to teach again.”
Kellogg told POLITICO in an email that it “is simply an action of students utilizing their right to raise concerns about who is invited to be/teach on our campus.”
“The Title IX process is open to all students and exists to ensure that students have a channel in which to make their voices heard when they are saying that they feel less safe and less able to access educational resources on campus,” Kellogg said.
The allegations against Kavanaugh are not connected to his work at Harvard. Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychology professor, says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. Deborah Ramirez alleges Kavanaugh exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party at Yale in the 1980s. A third woman, Julie Swetnick, has accused Kavanaugh and a friend of attending house parties where women — including herself — were sexually assaulted.
The FBI is looking into the allegations and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Wednesday that the FBI’s report is “very close,” though the Iowa Republican would not predict when Kavanaugh would get a vote.
The Title IX protest at Harvard was first reported by The Harvard Crimson. Harvard law professors expressed skepticism about the students’ approach in interviews with the paper.
One professor, Jeannie Suk Gersen, called the effort “an abuse of process” that “would undermine the legitimacy and credibility of complaints that the Title IX process is intended to deal with, as well as of the Title IX office to focus on its duties.”
“It might be effective in drawing further attention to some students’ objection to Kavanaugh’s teaching appointment, but I don’t expect him to be found to have violated Harvard University’s Sexual & Gender-Based Harassment Policy based on the currently known public allegations against him,” Gersen told the Crimson.
Kellogg defended the effort to POLITICO as “students exercising their right to say ‘I don’t feel comfortable and this is why.'”
“It is not any abstracted abuse of process,” Kellogg said. “It is us using the process that exists for exactly the reason it exists.”