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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
UPDATED: May 6, 2014, at 9:31 p.m.
After months of scrutiny directed at the University’s policies concerning sexual assault, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith announced Tuesday the creation of an FAS committee charged with bringing Harvard’s largest branch into compliance with a University-wide sexual assault policy still being reviewed by the Federal Office for Civil Rights.
In an email sent to the FAS community, Smith wrote that University President Drew G. Faust has instructed Harvard’s schools to update their respective response and disciplinary procedures regarding cases of sexual assault, even as the revised policy—which has not been released—still awaits approval.
Smith wrote that History professor Alison Frank Johnson will chair the new committee.
“Our job is to make sure that the policies and procedures we have to address sexual misconduct within FAS reflect what our community needs and deserves, as well as what the law is and what the central policy requires,” Johnson said on Tuesday afternoon.
Johnson added that while the University has been working on its revised sexual misconduct policies for some time, recent events—most notably personal accounts of difficulty with institutional sexual assault policies at Harvard and across the country—have provided a noticeable sense of urgency.
“Harvard moves slowly and a lot of this work was started before [spring 2014], but it is also true that students have played an essential role in advocating for change at Harvard and nationally,” she said. “Many of the people I have spoken to who are willing to help are motivated... by their own personal experiences and the experiences of those close to them.”
Johnson said Tuesday that she hopes the committee will meet twice before Commencement exercises at the end of May, and that the body “will move quickly to a set of recommendations in the fall.”
The FAS committee is the newest of a number of University-sanctioned groups focused on sexual assault prevention and response. Last May, inaugural Title IX coordinator Mia Karvonides convened a working group to evaluate Harvard’s policies regarding sexual assault. Over the course of eleven months, the Karvonides group drafted the new, University-wide policy on sexual assault which is currently under review at the OCR.
On April 3, Faust announced the creation of a task force on sexual assault, chaired by former University Provost Steven E. Hyman, that she said was aimed at making suggestions for preventing sexual assault on campus.
The 21-member FAS committee will include four students—two undergraduates and two graduate students—and 17 faculty and staff members. Both Johnson and Smith emphasized that they do not expect the student members to fully represent the voices of the student body.
“We need everyone to know that you don’t have to be on the committee to have your voice heard by the committee,” Johnson said.
The faculty members of the committee include Johnson, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences professor Michael Aziz, English professor Stephen L. Burt ’93, English and African and African American Studies professor Glenda R. Carpio, Latin American studies professor David Carrasco, History professor Nancy F. Cott, Psychology professor Jill M. Hooley, Biology professor James J. McCarthy, South Asian Studies Department Chair Parimal G. Patil, Philosophy and African and African American Studies professor Tommie Shelby, Music professor Anne Shreffler, and Law School professor Ronald Sullivan Jr, the master of Winthrop House.
The administrators on the committee include Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs Kwok Wah Yu, Senior Human Resources Consultant Sandy Stergiou, Dean for GSAS Student Affairs Garth McCavana, Harvard College Associate Dean for Student Life William Cooper ’94, Interim Secretary of the Administrative Board Brett Flehinger, and Dudley House Resident Dean Karen Flood.
The four students who have been invited to serve on the committee were not identified in Smith’s announcement.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: May 6, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated one of professor Tommie Shelby's departmental affiliations. In fact, Shelby is affiliated with both the Philosophy and African and African American Studies Departments.
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