E&C Republicans Press NIH for Information on Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent a letter today to Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the senior official who is performing the duties of Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This inquiry follows up an August 2022 letter to NIH regarding its handling of sexual harassment complaints. 


NIH’s own statistics show a significant problem with more than 300 cases related to harassment since 2018. That also represents hundreds of women who are being bullied or threatened.” 


“All the more troubling is the fact that recent independent surveys have found top institutions and major NIH grant recipients with a high number of reported instances of sexual misconduct. In 2015, the Association of American Universities (AAU) conducted a campus survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. This survey included over 150,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at 27 universities that participated. For example, Yale University had the highest rates of female sexual assault with the exception of two other universities, which both boast a significantly larger student body population. Further, in 2019, AAU conducted a follow up Campus Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct survey and found that sexual assaults at Yale had actually increased. 

Such findings and high-profile cases raise concerns about possible non-compliance with Federal laws applicable to NIH funding, including Title IX. As you know, Yale has been among the largest recipients of Federal taxpayer funding in the form of research grants. During the past ten years, for example, Yale has received approximately 9,584 awards to faculty and professors totaling around $4.3 billion from NIH alone. Each of these grants were conditioned on Yale’s full compliance with applicable Federal laws such as Title IX. We could cite several other major grantee institutions for similar issues.  

“Based on the massive number of NIH grants and billions of Federal funds benefitting or inuring to the benefit of Yale and ongoing inquiries, we are concerned that Yale and other institutions may not have complied with their responsibilities under Title IX as a recipient of Federal funds. Compliance with Title IX is more than a mere formality—it is a prerequisite for receipt of Federal funds. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asserts that complying with research grant requirements is a significant priority.” 

The Chairs asked for the information, including responses to the following questions, by

March 28, 2023: 

  1. Upon receipt of a harassment complaint, what is the NIH process for requesting more information from grantees? 
  2. Does the NIH ask different questions if special populations (children) are involved in the complaint? 
  3. Does the NIH ever talk to the alleged victim of harassment, not just the grantee institution? 
  4. How many complaints were sent directly to the NIH Director or Acting NIH Director since January 1, 2019? How many of these complaints were referred to the OER? If there were any complaints not referred to OER, why not? 
  5. NIH indicated it was working with HHS Office of Civil Rights in September 2020. What was the outcome of these interactions? How many targets of discrimination or retaliation have been contacted as a result? Were NIH investigations or institutional Title IX investigations (or others) reviewed? Please provide specifics. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter.