UC Will Give Suggestions To Sexual Assault Task Force

Members of the Undergraduate Council voted to issue a four-pronged set of recommendations to Harvard’s sexual assault prevention task force, with one calling on the task force to acknowledge the role of final clubs and other off-campus groups in the prevalence of sexual assault.

Originally, the legislation made little mention of final clubs and other off-campus social groups. Leverett House representative Jullian A. Duran ’18 proposed an amendment that added a provision for members of the task force to acknowledge that off-campus groups be included in discussions about sexual assault, a recent focus of student discourse.

Duran argued that failing to mention these groups would be “skirting around the issue.” He added that his amendment implicitly urges administrators to recognize the groups, which the University cut ties with in 1984.

UC Meeting
Philosophy professor Sean D. Kelly speaks to the Undergraduate Council on upcoming changes to the General Education program.

Results of a University-wide sexual assault conduct survey conducted last spring indicated that at least 15 percent of reported sexual assaults at Harvard occurred in “single-sex organizations that are not fraternities or sororities,” the second most common location of reported sexual assaults behind dorm rooms and a category that was designed to encompass Harvard’s final clubs.

Duran’s amendment passed with 21 votes in favor, six in opposition, and 11 abstentions.

Prior to Duran’s amendment, Winthrop House representative Daniel R. Levine ’17 posed a similar amendment that called on the task force to urge final clubs to accept students of all genders into their memberships. Levine’s amendment failed with 12 votes in favor, 24 in opposition—including UC President Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16 and Vice President Dhruv P. Goyal ’16—and five abstentions. Many UC reps deemed the move “inactionable” and argued that suggestions to the task force should focus on short-term feasibility.

The three original recommendations include advocating for increased capacity for bystander intervention programs, providing financial incentives for student groups who take “responsible actions” to prevent sexual assault, and expanding student trainings and awareness of sexual assault policy, prevention, and response.

A meeting of the Council’s Finance Committee on Wednesday will determine specifics of the financial incentives for compliant student groups.

Additionally, the recommendation advocating for increased student training toward sexual assault issues includes suggesting annual or biannual Title IX programming for freshmen and upperclassmen alike. Currently, freshmen receive training during their orientation to the College, but there is no mandatory follow up training for upperclassmen.

Aside from sexual assault discussions, Sean D. Kelly, a philosophy professor and chair of a committee to review the College’s program in General Education, spoke to the Council on Sunday about proposals to improving the program. A report issued last semester by members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences characterized Gen Ed as “failing on a variety of fronts,” noting that the program lacks both commitment and identity.

At the meeting, Kelly briefed representatives on potential changes to Gen Ed, including an explanation of distribution requirements, as well as a streamlined program with only four required courses. The new proposal, Kelly said, will encourage students to consider more courses because it would mandate students to look across academic disciplines. The Faculty is set to review the committee’s proposals next month.

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.


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