A task force convened in April by University President Drew G. Faust has developed a series of early recommendations for preventing sexual assault on campus, including increased funding for the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Research and a proposal that individual schools work with OSAPR and the Title IX office to incorporate more prevention education into orientation programs.
The recommendations were formally accepted by Faust in a letter Wednesday afternoon and will take effect immediately.
Former University Provost and chair of the task force Steven E. Hyman, who submitted a letter including the recommendations to Faust on Tuesday, wrote in the document that the group has met twice since its creation and that its main focus has been “how to best use the coming months” as the committee works to provide Faust with further recommendations.
In the letter, Hyman also requested funds for a survey on sexual assault to be administered by the task force and proposed the creation of a central website hosting resources for victims of sexual assault. Hyman wrote that “a critical activity” for the task force will be broad consultation with members of the Harvard community this fall.
Much of Hyman’s letter amounted to a call for the University to dedicate additional resources for prevention.
“We are concerned that moving forward, an understaffed OSAPR risks slow or ineffective responses to students who have experienced sexual assault,” Hyman wrote. “The task force asks that OSAPR be provided with whatever additional resources are necessary to carry out its role—beginning as soon as possible.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Hyman applauded members of the task force for moving quickly and said he felt a sense of urgency among its members.
“Everywhere you turn there are reminders that this is a very important and still not well addressed issue,” he said. “We are most likely to be successful with our recommendations if we really exploit this moment of attention.”
Hyman added, “I really want people to think hard about what will actually work. How do you intervene to decrease significantly the incidents of these obviously very life-damaging assaults? The goal is not to issue a document that makes us all feel good; the goal is to make a difference.”
The early recommendations come after Faust told The Crimson last week that her hope was that changes could be made by the start of the fall semester, if not by the end of this academic year.
“I think we are focused on making a number of efforts before the end of the school year,” she said. “Sexual assault should not exist on this campus given what we see as our most fundamental values…. It is just totally at odds with everything we believe in and want to be.”
“When I hear stories from individuals about [sexual assault], it is heart-rending. I think that it is also [often] difficult to figure out, once it’s happened, how to best support the individual in question, and that is our challenge,” Faust said. “That is what I think the task force needs to address first of all.”
Last week, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith announced the formation of an FAS committee charged with bringing the body up to code with a proposed University-wide sexual assault policy currently being reviewed by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education.
Faust said last week that she was unable to comment on any specific initiatives of the policy while it was under review.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.