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Administration Names Sexual Assault Policy Committee

Committee chair says she hopes to create more options for victims

College administrators announced yesterday the faculty members, University staff and students charged with recommending changes to the University’s resources for sexual assault victims.

The committee was created last spring in response to controversy surrounding the Faculty’s decision to require more evidence before the Administrative Board can investigate claims of sexual assault.

The committee, which will meet for the first time on Sept. 18, has not been explicitly charged with looking at ways to change the Ad Board procedure.

But Committee Chair Jennifer Leaning, professor of international health in the Faculty of Public Health, said the group will try to brainstorm ways to provide more options in the University for students who have been sexually assaulted to cope with the aftermath.

“We view the current Ad Board process as one that’s up and running,” Leaning said. “Our charge is to help make it work, help supplement it.”

The committee includes two students—Sarah B. Levit-Shore ’04 and Jared M. Slade ’03—and faculty from various departments, as well as a University Health Services psychologist and a former director of the Rape Crisis Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital.

Levit-Shore is a member of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, the student group that organized rallies against the Ad Board change last spring.

Slade has served as a peer educator for Peer Relations and Date Rape Education, and is Pforzheimer House’s director of the Community Health Initiative.

Slade said he was contacted by Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 during the summer and asked to be part of the committee. He said he is excited for the opportunity.

“I think the College realizes that the current resources [for victims of sexual asault] need to be tweaked, else there would be no need for a committee in this form,” Slade wrote in an e-mail.

The group’s monthly meetings will culminate in April with an official recommendation on how best to change the University’s sexual assault services and education.

University Provost Steven E. Hyman said he and Lewis tried to solicit a group of faculty and students for the committee who have varying levels of knowledge of the issue and different perspectives.

“We were seeking a committee that would come from different life experiences and different intellectual environments at Harvard so the sum conversation would be deeply informed by people who understood psychology and college life,” Leaning said.

Professor of the History of Science and Dudley House Master Everett I. Mendelsohn said he was interested in being on the committee partly due to his experience as the thesis adviser to a student who had been sexually assaulted.

He said victims of sexual assault deserve all the support Harvard can provide.

“My experience at Harvard over the years has led me to recognize the need for the community to have adequate and effective ways of dealing with issues like sexual assault,” Mendelsohn said.