Is Anyone Listening?


You can lead the Ad Board to water, but you can't make it drink. Two years ago, when comments by Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Wolcowitz raised concerns regarding the Administrative Board's handling of the date rape charges, the Ad Board responded in true bureaucratic fashion--they set up a committee. Last month, the Ad Board rejected two of the most important recommendations of that committee, the Date Rape Task Force. While Ad Board members voted to adopt several critical procedural changes, their rejection of the Task Force's definition of rape and their reluctance to create "peer-dispute subcommittees" makes up wonder how much the Ad Board has really learned in the last two years.

In an Ad Board memo obtained by The Crimson, Jewett called the Task Force's definition of rape "either impractical or inappropriate as a disciplinary standard." It is neither.

Some critics worry that the Task Force definition of rape as "any act of sexual intercourse that occurs without the expressed consent of the person," could be used to bring unfair charges against a member of a long-time couple. While it is true that many such couples routinely have sex without spoken consent, their consent is usually indicated physically--and the Task Force's definition takes this into account by stating that dissent can be expressed either "verbally or physically."

The issue of "expressed consent" is particularly important in light of the all too common situation, at Harvard as elsewhere, when a student is taken advantage of while in a drunken stupor, unable to say yes or no. That is rape, and that is what policies like this aim to prevent.

It is not at all too much to ask of college students to think of sex as something that should not happen with an unwilling--or unconscious--partner. For the sake of possible victims and possible perpetrators, a clear statement of this principle is important. That is exactly what the Task Force definition offers.


In addition, this definition correctly focuses attention on the actions of the alleged perpetrator. The current definition of rape places unfair burden on the alleged victim. In no other area of law is the determination of whether a crime has occurred based solely on the behavior of the alleged victim. Nor is it "inappropriate as a disciplinary standard." The Ad Board frequently holds students to a higher standard of behavior than that required by Massachusetts State Law and has often claimed the right to do so in other disciplinary areas. To back away from a stricter definition of date rape because it goes beyond current law is at the least inconsistent and makes us wonder how seriously the Ad Board takes the issue of date rape, even now.

We're not surprised that the Ad Board refused to open up its Star Chamber proceedings, even to carefully screened and trained students who would serve on investigative subcommittees. Disappointed, but not surprised. The Ad Board has consistently resisted student involvement in its operations and cried "confidentiality" every time it has been suggested. As we said last February when the Task Force's recommendations were first released, students who live in this community have a right to help decide verdicts in the disciplinary complaints brought against their peers.

We are pleased that some of the Task Force's minor recommendations on Ad Board procedure have been adopted. Giving alleged victims the opportunity to face the Ad Board personally with their accusations and preventing each party from seeing the other's initial statements before writing their own are significant improvements on a system that some alleged victims have charged inherently favored the accused. The establishment of permanent subcommittees to investigate disciplinary matters (of any kind) will also go a long way toward effective resolution of date rape cases.

These are only small changes, however, on an issue of critical importance to every Harvard student. One in four college women is a victim of rape. The Ad Board's rejection of the main components of the Task Force's report can only suggest that a fundamental problem remains: they still don't get it.

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