The Undergraduate Council voted Sunday night to support the adoption of a College-wide affirmative consent policy, just one week before students are set to cast ballots on the very same issue.
The UC’s Sexual Assault Policies and Procedures Act calls on Harvard to adopt affirmative consent in order to “lessen ambiguity” and bring the University’s policies in line with those of its seven Ivy League peers.Affirmative consent—in which partners must affirmatively communicate their willingness to participate in sexual activity—is also at the center of this fall’s student-led sexual assault referendum.
Representatives passed the position paper following a lively debate over the merits of preempting a student referendum. Proponents argued that the Council should show its support for the student-led movement, while opponents decried the idea that the UC would adopt a position on an issue that students will ultimately decide.
“The referendum shows that we should be taking some sort of action,” said James B. Pollack ’14, one of the act’s sponsors.
Representative Antone Martinho III ’13 voiced his opposition to the act’s timing—though not necessarily its content—multiple times during the debate.
“We are about to receive the votes of the student body on this very issue, and it seems utterly against the very idea of the proposition for us to take a position before students do,” he said.
If students ultimately decide to reject affirmative consent at the ballot box, the UC will have to change its official position, said Rules Committee Chair Darragh Nolan ’15 in response to a procedural question. Student-led referendums are binding if at least twenty-five percent of students vote in the election.
UC Presidential candidate Spenser R. Goodman ’14 cast one of the eight “nay” votes, while his opponents Akshay M. Sharma ’14, Tara Raghuveer ’14, and Michael C. George ’14 supported the act.
“I personally support this amendment,” explained Goodman. “However, I absolutely want students to decide on this. I don’t want the Council to influence them.”
At Sunday’s meeting the UC also announced the launch of “We The Crimson,” an online portal in which students can create petitions on student life issues and “like” them in order to receive an official response from the administration.
“Dean Hammonds will directly respond to the top three petitions each month,” said UC Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13. “And even for petitions not in the top three, I think it’s really important for the UC to see what students care about.”
The UC also passed a seventh round of fall grants packages by unanimous consent and moved to renew Thanksgiving bus service between Harvard and Boston Logan Airport.
—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.