Student Task Force Report Examines University Gun Policy

A focus group of Undergraduate Council representatives released a report early this month examining the University’s policies on guns, discussing the history of gun-related incidents on campus, and recommending policy actions to prevent campus shootings.

“For the most part, we found that the [current] Harvard policies are good with regard to gun control,” UC President Tara Raghuveer ’14 said, “I think where Harvard falls short is that students don’t know what the policies are even though they’re publicized.”

The focus group made five broad recommendations in the memo, ranging from banning firearms on all college campuses to mandating that universities regularly perform drills to prepare for emergencies.

The report, which has not been put before the UC for endorsement, also referenced two recent gun-related incidents at Harvard—the 2010 suicide on the steps of Memorial Church and the 2009 shooting in Kirkland House.

The document, along with other memos drafted by members of student governments at 15 colleges throughout the U.S., was sent to National Campus Leadership Council, an organization of more than 275 college student governments. The NCLC then compiled them into a brief, which was submitted to Vice President Joe Biden’s office in advance of President Barack Obama’s Jan. 16 announcement on gun control measures.

“It was really great to see the Council so engaged in this topic even during winter break.” Raghuveer said.

Sietse K. Goffard ’15, a UC representative for Currier House, said he volunteered to contribute to the memo because of his personal concern over gun violence in light of the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“I know we have a relatively safe campus, but the thought of [the shooting] happening on our campus or anywhere else was something that really sent shivers down my spine,” he said.

Members of the focus group said that what surprised them most was the lack of clarity surrounding gun policies and prevention procedures at Harvard.

Raghuveer said that although all students receive the University’s gun policy through A Guide to the First Year at Harvard and the Handbook for Students, a recent UC survey revealed that many students were unclear about the official policy of the College.

Members of the focus group said that they were committed to working with the administration and other student groups to address the recommendations in the report, especially in improving student access to mental health resources.

“Mental health is going to be a huge focus of the Undergraduate Council in the next year,” Raghuveer said.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can be reached at