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Sexual Assault Task Force To Host Student Focus Group Sessions

By Noah J. Delwiche, Crimson Staff Writer

The President’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault will begin hosting student focus group sessions early next month, according to an email sent Thursday from Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde. Four discussion sessions, open to the undergraduate community, will run nightly from Nov. 10-13.

Lassonde wrote in the email that he hopes undergraduate input will allow the task force members to “develop a better understanding of how sexual assault and sexual harassment happens at the College, as well as to spark creative ideas about how to stop it.”

Earlier this month, Steven E. Hyman, the chair of the task force, referenced the student sessions in an announcement detailing a campus “climate survey” scheduled to be distributed the spring.

The announcement Thursday comes only weeks after investigators arrived on campus as part of a Title IX investigation prompted by a complaint filed by at least one undergraduate last year. The Undergraduate Council has also recently criticized the University for a perceived lack of student inclusion in policy discussion.

UC leaders, however, recently applauded the University for pledging to involve undergraduates in an upcoming review committee on the University’s new sexual harassment policy.

While UC President and Vice President Gus A. Mayopoulos ’15 and Sietse K. Goffard ’15 said they were “thrilled” at the formalization of the focus group sessions, they added that they hoped students are similarly included on policy feedback.

“[Harvard administrators] seem to trust students a lot and give them a lot of voice when it comes to asking them about how we can change our own culture, and we hope that they will see students as equally important when it comes to changing policy. These are two important parts of the same equation.” Goffard said.

Jessica R. Fournier ’17, an organizer for Our Harvard Can Do Better, expressed hope that the University might commit to providing avenues for “actual, concrete change.” She added that the task force must ensure it will solicit feedback from a “wide variety” of students.

—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.

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Undergraduate CouncilStudent LifeCollege NewsSexual AssaultTitle IX