Burden of Proof

In a year when the Faculty voted to require more evidence before the Ad Board would investigate sexual assault complaints, the University itself has been forced to prove its case.

“She never checked in with me after I went to see her in October,” Jane says. “I didn’t even know she was gone [on maternity leave].”

“You should only have to take that initiative once,” she says. “E-mailing [my assistant dean of freshmen]. That could have been it.”

In a survey conducted by The Crimson last April, more than 70 percent of the 408 students polled said they have a poor understanding of how the Ad Board handles sexual assault and just over a quarter said they would not know whom to call if they were sexually assaulted.

After last year’s change to the Ad Board procedure focused the attention of students, faculty and the national media on sexual assault at Harvard, the Leaning committee given a broad mandate to investigate sexual assault policy.

After a year of researching policies and interviewing students, experts and administrators, the committee has recommended that the University drastically reform the way it deals with sexual assault on campus.


In their report, the Leaning committee urges the University to create a new office—with two full-time employees, one part-time employee, and doors open 24 hours per day, seven days per week—to be the hub for resources for sexual assault victims and preventive education.

In a step towards centralizing some of the sexual assault prevention resources on campus, last October, the College hired Susan Marine, a former counselor at Dartmouth and a Boston Area Rape Crisis Center victim advocate, to fill the new position of coordinator for sexual assault prevention services.

CASV members have long argued that Harvard’s resources—ranging from the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment (SASH) tutors to the Bureau of Study Council—need to be centralized in order to make it more clear whom a victim should call.

The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, proposed by the Leaning Committee, would further centralize the information for students on where to go for counseling and how to file a complaint with the Ad Board, committee members hope.

“Everything will be centrally coordinated so that if education isn’t going well somebody will be responsible for that, if students are having a bad time at the Bureau [of Study Counsel], somebody will be responsible for that,” says Levit-Shore, who was also a member of the Leaning committee. “The complaints are much less likely to fall through the cracks.”

The committee’s recommendations focused not only on how to address the aftermath of sexual assault, but also on how to prevent it.

Currently, the only mandatory sexual assault prevention education occurs in the Safe Community Meeting during Freshman Week that covers a wide range of safety issues for incoming first-years.

“At some schools you need to take a swim test or you don’t graduate,” Levit-Shore said this fall. “I don’t think it would be so ridiculous to do the same for rape education.”

The Leaning committee report recommends a far more extensive education program, including a mandatory session devoted only to sexual assault education during Freshman Week, small group workshops in first-year entryways, House-based education for sophomores and special education programs for student leaders.

But Avery says she doubts the College could force every undergraduate to attend the prevention education even if it were mandatory.