CASV Says Ad Board Policy Is Improved

Members of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence (CASV), which two years ago pushed the College to change its requirement of corroborating evidence in sexual assault cases, said at a meeting Wednesday that the procedures for dealing with these cases have improved significantly at Harvard.

At the meeting, which was attended by about a dozen students, Susan B. Marine, director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, outlined the Administrative Board’s current method of considering accusations of sexual assault.

“Our primary goal today is to make members more familiar with how the Ad Board works in relation to sexual assault. We would like to change the Ad Board so that survivors feel more comfortable bringing their cases to the board,” said CASV Board Member Laura E. Openshaw ’05.

Openshaw said that members of CASV were happy with a spring 2003 change to a policy requiring corroborating evidence before the Ad Board investigated sexual assaults to one that created an independent fact-finder. She said CASV is unsure whether it will push the Ad Board to revise its policies further.

“This meeting is the first step in figuring out what else we would like to pursue. It’s kind of been a work in progress since the Faculty made a change for the best in the Ad Board,” said Openshaw. “There aren’t any plans now. We need to process what was talked about at this meeting and see what we want to pursue.”

Marine said at the meeting that currently around 95 percent of what the Ad Board does pertains to academics, and a “very small proportion of what they do relates to issues of sexual misconduct.”

CASV members said many students are unfamiliar with the services of the Ad Board.

“A lot of people don’t know much about the Ad Board, so it’s not necessarily considered an option. This is to clear up any misconceptions anyone may have,” said CASV board members Tazneen R. Shahabuddin ’06.

If a student takes a sexual assault case to the Ad Board, Marine said, the board follows a multiple-step process. First, the victim would write a statement summarizing the assault. A subcommittee of two members of the Ad Board would be appointed to deliberate the case.

The Faculty’s addition of a fact-finder, an impartial individual appointed to collect evidence on both sides of the case, has made the process more fair, students and Marine said.

“The new process with the fact finder alleviates a lot of problems,” said Marine.

While some students told Marine that victims of sexual assault still feel badgered by the number of questions asked during the process, and ultimately just give up, she said that she had “never heard an inappropriate question asked” at Harvard.