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.

But committee members, lawyers and CASV members say the sexual assault policy will hinge on the Ad Board process in the end.

Levit-Shore says preventive education is useless without an effective disciplinary system.

“A significant component of education is if you break this rule, you will be punished,” she said this fall. “If you’re not going to do anything when rape happens, you can have this very extensive education program and it won’t matter at all.”

CASV member Alisha C. Johnson ’04 cites the single-digit number of sexual assault cases that have gone before the Ad Board in recent years as proof that the current policy is not working.

“It’s obvious from that students don’t have faith in the system because if they did more would come forward,” Johnson says. “When someone is assaulted there’s a lot of work they need to do to talk to someone.”


Silverglate calls Harvard’s disciplinary system the “worst in the country” because subcommittees—not the full Ad Board—hear the testimony of every witness.

And Jane says she feels the standards for a victim to prove her case are impossibly high and that she cannot envision a sexual assault complaint being successful without the confession of the accused student—or equally obvious evidence.

“I did not run home screaming and crying. I was not the perfect rape victim,” she says.

While the Leaning committee’s original charge did not include examining the revised Ad Board policy, the committee concluded that it would be impossible for them to leave discipline out of their purview.

The committee recommended in their final report the Board make greater use of a “Single Fact Finder” to investigate peer dispute cases in conjunction with the subcommittee as well as taking over Fithian’s role as the preliminary investigator.

The report suggests that the fact finder—trained in the Ad Board procedure as well as in dealing with sexual assault victims—would help alleviate some students’ concerns that the process takes too long and is not performed by trained investigators.

According to Leaning committee recommendations, Ad Board members should also be trained in peer dispute procedure—although what kind of training is not specified in the report.

CASV members say the success of the fact finder model and the improvement of the Ad Board depends on what kind of training they receive.

Levit-Shore says she hopes the fact finder will eliminate the possibility that a case would not be fully investigated because, according to the Leaning recommendations, the fact finder would investigate every case that came forward.