University To Hire Sex Assault Educator

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The University has created a new position charged with directing sexual assault programs, the latest in a series of changes to the way Harvard handles resources concerning sexual assault.

The position was posted on the University’s online list of open jobs Friday. The new employee—who will report jointly to the College and the Student Health Coordinating Board of the Provost’s Office—will be in charge of creating sexual assault awareness programs and increasing alcohol education and outreach programs for undergraduates.

“Lots of people have been thinking and talking for months about how to address sexual assault issues on campus and we are very pleased to have been able to work with the Provost’s Office in the creation of this new one-year position,” said Julia G. Fox, assistant to the dean of the College.

The individual appointed to the one-year position will also train the Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment Advisors and work with the committee formed last spring to reevaluate Harvard’s sexual assault resources. The salary for this job could range from $45,768 to $ 77,376, according to the job posting website.

Members of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence, the student group which has loudly criticized the University’s allocation of resources regarding sexual assault—praised the University for creating the position.

“They see that they need to start fixing things right away instead of the committee working and taking a year and taking another year to enact a policy,” said Irene B. Janis ’03, a Coalition Against Sexual Violence member.

Coalition member Ellenor J. Honig ’04 said she is glad the position is only a one-year appointment because it allows the University to have a trial period without delaying action on the issue.

“We were worried about what would happen to this year’s freshmen,” Honig said.

But Janis said the position is not sufficient. She said students who bring allegations of sexual assault to the Administrative Board need someone explicitly designated as their advocate—something this position does not provide.

Last spring, the Faculty voted to require corroborating evidence before the Ad Board investigates a claim of sexual assault. Coalition members rallied in protest of the decision.

“I wouldn’t say this is the answer to all our questions,” said Coalition member Sarah B. Levit-Shore ’04.

She said she has heard students may be involved in the hiring process and has “high hopes” that will happen.

Members of Coalition met with administrators several times this summer to advocate for a position that would oversee all resources for sexual assault victims, Honig said.

But Honig said she was surprised the University acted so quickly.

The ongoing Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation into Harvard’s sexual assault policy might be one reason for the new position, said Wendy Murphy, a Boston lawyer representing the student who filed the OCR claim.

“The pressure did mount on Harvard to at least come across as more reasonable than they were,” Murphy said.

But Murphy said students should not be satisfied until the University changes its procedure for investigating sexual assault complaints.

“While I very much will extol the virtues of education and prevention education in particular, I don’t want it to distract people from the focus—which is the fact that Harvard will require corroboration before an investigation,” Murphy said.

“My feeling is that the message-sending power of the corroboration rule is stronger than any education effort.”

—Staff writer Anne K. Kofol can be reached at kofol@fas.harvard.edu.