Harvard Must Do More to Prevent Sexual Assault

While administration efforts in response to the troubling sexual climate survey are commendable, greater policy modifications can be made to ensure steadfast progress.

In the wake of growing calls for change and a sexual climate survey revealing shocking results, Harvard has prioritized issues of sexual assault. However, the University’s words and actions on this matter are incongruous. While administrators’ attempts to institute sexual assault prevention training and create a committee to find effective solutions are laudable, they have not put enough weight behind policies, resulting only in what a recent Crimson news analysis called "checkered progress".

The College has historically granted the 12 residential Houses a great deal of autonomy in an attempt to maintain independence and informality. However, this has led to uneven implementation of programs. For instance, while Lowell House called for prevention discussions in the wake of the climate survey, other Houses did nothing. This is unacceptable. Excuses about the decentralized nature of the College-House relationship should not prevent upperclassmen from receiving valuable information surrounding serious events that happen on campus and remain unchecked.

When sexual assault occurs, students often must turn to administrative bodies such as the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response for guidance and support, while student groups such as Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators work to educate and provide prevention training. Given the important work they do, these groups are understaffed and underfunded. Harvard must provide additional funding and administrative support. In the wake of the disturbing sexual assault statistics, students often only have these groups to which to turn, and need many more than the five counselors OSAPR currently staffs.

In addition, sexual assault prevention training should be necessary and strictly enforced for all Harvard students. While the the current online module the College has implemented is a welcome first step, it is not particularly effective: only two-thirds of undergraduate students have actually completed it. One-third of the student body should not be allowed to skirt a system designed to affect important change on this campus. Rather, the College ought to heed the report and implement small groups to discuss sexual assault prevention training among peers. However, regardless of whether an online module or small-group peer education is implemented, Harvard must ensure and enforce a 100% completion rate for these trainings.

The College must also test to see if the steps they take ultimately have measurable and positive effects on student life. One way to track change would be to institute campus climate surveys to measure progress among the student body at least every two years.

Measurable improvement will make Harvard a safer place. We cannot stand by when cases of sexual assault are reported, but simply checking off boxes and calling our work done is not enough. Harvard administrators must work diligently, with the assistance of students, to create more effective policies on sexual assault prevention.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.


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