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MIT to seek independent review of its handling of harassment charges involving Julia Carpenter

The MIT News Office today released a July 16 letter from President Charles Vest stating that MIT will ask an outside expert to review MIT's handling of harassment charges brought by Julia Carpenter in the months prior to her death by suicide on April 30.

The letter, to a student reporter for The Tech, the student newspaper, was quoted in an article in that paper today. Due to privacy laws, MIT cannot comment beyond the letter. The letter said:

Dear Sandra:

I appreciate the care with which you are following the tragic story of Julie Carpenter's death.

As you know, questions have been raised about the manner in which MIT handled harassment charges she brought in the months prior to her death. We are in the process of asking a person outside MIT, but who has an in-depth understanding of contemporary campus issues, to review all aspects of our investigation and adjudication of those harassment charges.

The purpose is to gain additional perspective on our complaint handling and support services, and to determine ways in which our processes might be improved in the future. It will not be an investigation into Ms. Carpenter's death. That was done by the Massachusetts Medical Examiner. It also will not be designed either to assess blame or offer excuses. It is instead one of many ways we seek advice, understanding of best practice and paths for improvement. Indeed, our own MIT staff are called upon from time to time to help with similar assessments and reviews at other institutions and organizations.

We will not be able to make any details of this review public because of our respect for the privacy of those involved. In fact, both MIT policies and federal law protect such privacy. The consultant will also need to interview various students and staff under conditions of appropriate confidentiality.

If the consultant draws conclusions about our systems and procedures that could lead to their improvement in the future, we will of course share those with the community.

I hope that this answers your questions. If not, we can talk further when you return to campus.

--Chuck Vest

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