In efforts to raise awareness about campus issues, representatives from both The Diversity Report, a coalition of students of color, and Our Harvard Can Do Better, a campaign to change Harvard’s sexual assault policies, staged demonstrations throughout Visitas weekend.
Several members from Our Harvard Can Do Better gathered near the John Harvard statue and the Widener steps on Saturday holding signs for visiting parents and students that expressed their views on sexual assault issues and rape culture at the College.
One sign read, “My friend’s rapist goes to class with me.” Another read, “I don’t want to graduate with rapists.”
The demonstrations follow a complaint filed against Harvard by two individuals, including at least one member of Our Harvard Can Do Better, to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights earlier this month, alleging that the College’s sexual assault policies violate Title IX.
Members of Our Harvard Can Do Better said that it was important for admitted students to be aware of Harvard’s sexual assault policies, of which they said the College did not sufficiently educate students, both enrolled and admitted.
“I think [sexual assault is] a large issue on campus...and [one that] certainly any student considering the school should be aware of,” said Jessica R. Fournier ’17, a co-organizer of Our Harvard Can Do Better.
Fournier said Our Harvard Can Do Better sought to give an honest image of a problem at the College, a goal she said aligns with the purpose of Visitas.
“This is not distracting from Visitas,” she said. “[Visitas] is supposed to give an image of what life is like here.”
Similarly, on Sunday evening, about 30 members of The Diversity Report, an organization which arose in response to issues raised during the “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign and a town hall for Latino students, stood silently outside the Science Center with signs that spelled out “We Are Here.”
Statements were printed on the back of the signs expressing concerns that ranged from the lack of diversity on the Administrative Board and within the faculty to the lack of resources devoted to multicultural programming.
According to Sarah F. Cole ’16, a member and organizer of The Diversity Report, the goal of the demonstration was not to discourage prefrosh from attending Harvard.
“We really tried to reach out to [the prefrosh] and say we’re so happy here,” Cole said. “All predominantly white institutions have problems with diversity, but here at Harvard we're trying to find ways to make it an even better place.”
Noting that the current class of accepted students is one of the most diverse that Harvard has ever admitted, Cole said that the group intentionally staged its demonstration during Visitas to bring certain issues to the administration’s attention and shift the conversation away from college admissions to what happens when students actually arrive on campus.