House Committee Asks GAO To Review Research Sexual Harassment

January 24, 2018 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

captiol-building-1228390The growing #MeToo movement brought to light cases of sexual harassment in Hollywood and in the political arena. Concerns over sexual harassment and discrimination now appear to be working their way into the federally funded research community.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Jan. 18 sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting that it examine the increasing claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the scientific and academic communities. The committee particularly pointed out high-profile allegations of misconduct against an astronomer, Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, at the University of California, Berkeley in 2015, in which Marcy was accused of violating the university’s sexual harassment policies and allegedly engaging in appropriate physical behavior with students.

The committee noted that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 put a system in place designed to ensure that institutions receiving federal funding provide all students, regardless of sex, equal access to educational programs and activities. Thompson addresses Title IX in detail in Tab 500 of the Federal Grants Management Handbook. Title IX adds that federal agencies awarding grants to educational institutions are obligated to take steps to ensure such institutions do not discriminate based on gender. However, previous GAO studies have found that some federal agencies are not conducting required Title IX compliance reviews of their grants to educational institutions, while others showed evidence of disparities in success rates among men and women.

“These findings are troubling, and the committee hopes to gain a greater understanding of whether such data collection and Title IX compliance issues affect agencies’ responsiveness to sexual harassment cases,” the letter states.

As a result, the committee is particularly requesting that GAO review the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to determine:

  • How many cases of sexual assault or harassment are currently before each of the grantmaking agencies?
  • Does each of these agencies have a clear policy regarding sexual harassment by grantees?
  • How are the agency policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment by grantees communicated to grant recipients?
  • What is the organizational chart of the office tasked with addressing Title IX harassment complaints at each agency?
  • Do grantmaking agencies have specific requirements that they be informed of any allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination or related issues by the grantor institution or laboratory?
  • Does GAO have any recommendations regarding ways to better oversee and enforce compliance with Title IX requirements at federal agencies?

It will be interesting to see the final report GAO eventually released on this topic, and we will be sure to cover it for our subscribers. Stay tuned for more on this.

What is your reaction to this letter? We’d love to hear from you!

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