CASV members sent a message over House e-mail lists explaining the change and urging students to forward another e-mail addressed to Faculty to their professors.
Sarah Levit-Shore ’04, a CASV member, said the e-mails were meant to educate students and Faculty about the decision and to explain why they think it is unfair to victims.
“Because not the entire Faculty was present at the meeting and because the repercussions of the [change] might not have been clear, we’re asking the Faculty to educate themselves and to bring it up for discussion again and to overturn it,” Levit-Shore said.
In both e-mails, CASV suggested that the new change will negatively impact students’ safety on campus.
“This change sends the message to students that Harvard will not protect them should they become victims of sexual assault and sends the message to perpetrators of sexual assault that they can commit assault freely without needing to worry about being punished,” stated the e-mail from CASV.
David B. Fithian, assistant dean of the College and the secretary of the Ad Board, said that the new preliminary evidence stage—which will determine whether cases go forward—is meant to help prevent students from going through a long Ad Board process when there is little hope of the Board reaching a conclusion.
“Part of the reason why the Ad Board does want to adopt these recommended changes is that we want to be more up-front about what people can expect from our process,” Fithian said.
“My biggest fear is that the way in which filing a complaint immediately initiated an investigation...triggered a hope in which people naturally thought the College wouldn’t pursue this if they didn’t think the person was responsible or guilty,” he said.
But Matthew E. Kutcher ’01-’02, a CASV member, said that he thinks students are capable of understanding the Ad Board’s restricted investigating ability.
“You can definitely enumerate the limits of the Ad Board and then allow that person to make their own choice,” Kutcher said.
He said that the new procedural change will take “agency” away from students bringing a complaint.
Fithian said the Ad Board will do everything it can for the complainants who bring cases before them.
“It couldn’t be farther from the truth that we’re somehow washing our hands and abandoning our cases,” Fithian said. “If the information is such that we can go either way we’re going to do an investigation.”
Levit-Shore said that while she is glad the Ad Board is admitting its limitations, this measure seems more like they are abandoning their responsibility to punish sexual assault.
“Harvard has $20 billion and a lot of smart people and giving up is not what you do when you face a challenge,” Levit-Shore said.