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In Support of Student Activism, Seniors To Don Red Tape On Graduation Caps

By Madeline R. Conway and Steven S. Lee, Crimson Staff Writers

In a demonstration of support for the Our Harvard Can Do Better campaign and other student activist efforts, a number of College seniors will don red tape atop their traditional black graduation caps when they walk into the Yard for Commencement ceremonies Thursday.

According to organizers, although the demonstration will focus on signaling support for Our Harvard Can Do Better, a student campaign that advocates for changes to Harvard’s sexual assault policy, it will also back the work of a number of other student activist groups on campus.

Lily H. Ostrer ’14, one of several students who organized the demonstration, said that students from several groups—including The Diversity Report, the “I, Too, Am Harvard” campaign, and Divest Harvard—have come together for the effort.

“Students from across the College who have been involved in different campaigns, different issues, different forms of activism decided was a really special opportunity to continue expressing the student voice and demonstrate to Harvard that the student voice is important, and that we are willing to stand up for the issues that we believe [in] and hold the University accountable,” Ostrer said Wednesday.

Participating students will place a single stripe of red tape along the right side of their graduation caps, according to organizers Isabel R. Ostrer ’14 and Jessica R. Fournier ’17. Lily Ostrer said that organizers are unsure of how many graduating seniors will participate in the demonstration, but added that they hope for between 100 and 200 participants.

This show of solidarity comes after a semester marked by an increased scrutiny into Harvard’s sexual assault policy and practices.

Roughly two months ago, a first-person, anonymous op-ed published in The Crimson reignited debate on campus about issues surrounding sexual assault. In late March, undergraduates filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that the College’s sexual assault policies violate federal Title IX regulations. OCR later accepted the complaint and launched an investigation into the issue.

Amidst this debate, University President Drew G. Faust announced that Harvard had submitted its revised sexual assault policy to OCR for review. She also convened a University-wide task force to address issues of sexual assault at Harvard.

This academic year has also been marked by series of other protests by student activists on campus. After Harvard announced that Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, would speak at Commencement this spring, a number of students criticized the choice and Bloomberg’s support for the city’s stop-and-frisk policy. Critics of the choice argued that the policy, which allows police to randomly stop, question, and search pedestrians for illegal materials, is discriminatory.

The announcement that Bloomberg would speak at Commencement came on the heels of a wider debate regarding race relations and inclusion at Harvard. “I, Too, Am Harvard,” a social media campaign about race at Harvard and a theatrical production of the same name, attracted international attention.

Following the production, Interim Dean of the College Donald H. Pfister and incoming Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana convened a working group, to be chaired by Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, to discuss issues of inclusion at the College.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @StevenSJLee.

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