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Cabot House held an off-the-record conversation Sunday night—billed by Cabot Faculty Deans Rakesh Khurana and Stephanie R. Khurana as a “continued dialogue” about sexual assault and harassment—nearly two weeks after a House alumna alleged administrators dealt poorly with her reported case of sexual assault.
On Feb. 16, Alyssa R. Leader ’15, a Cabot graduate, filed a lawsuit against the University reporting that a male repeatedly threatened, abused, and sexually assaulted her while inside Cabot House, in addition to other locations. The lawsuit says Tiffanie L. Ting, Cabot’s resident dean, discouraged Leader from filing a formal complaint, and said her perpetrator could not be removed from the House.
In her lawsuit, Leader also requests punitive damages for Harvard and compensation, and charged that Harvard failed to abide by federal guidance for sexual assault investigations and that the University’s handling of the case violated federal anti-sex discrimination law Title IX.
Ting did not respond to a request for comment last week on the lawsuit. Rakesh Khurana, who also serves as Dean of the College, declined to comment on its content. Last week, he declined to comment on Leader’s specific allegations, although he said Harvard administrators “take seriously and swiftly respond to all allegations of sexual assault and harassment.”
The event was restricted to Cabot residents, and roughly a dozen students and tutors attended the event, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes. Both Faculty Deans also also attended.
Members of Cabot House have been hesitant to comment publicly on the case. Cabot Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment-designated tutor Roman Feiman said he attended the meeting but declined to comment further.
Cabot Cafe, a student-run coffee shop in the House, features as one of several settings in which Leader said she was sexually harassed. Employees of Cabot Cafe declined to comment on claims made in Leader’s lawsuit, but several sent an identical statement that "Cabot Cafe takes the issue of sexual assault on Harvard's campus very seriously. However, we are not in a position to comment on the current lawsuit.”
In Stephanie Khurana’s email last Thursday to Cabot House announcing the meeting, she and Khurana wrote that, “we along with College staff are committed to ensuring a healthy and respectful community. Any incidence of sexual assault or harassment is not acceptable, and we hope you know that we are committed to creating an environment at Cabot and more broadly where every student is safe and respected.”
On Tuesday, the Undergraduate Council will host a town hall discussion about Harvard’s sexual assault policy, featuring the University’s Title IX coordinator Mia Karvonides.
The lawsuit comes as Harvard responds to the results of a campus sexual conduct climate survey that University President Drew G. Faust called “deeply disturbing.”
Thirty-one percent of senior undergraduate females at Harvard College who responded to the survey last spring said they had experienced some form of sexual assault—what the survey termed “nonconsensual sexual contact”—during their time at the College. Sixteen percent, or 90 women, reported that they had experienced sexual penetration or attempted penetration without their consent during that time.
In response to the findings, Faust charged a University-wide task force with investigating sexual assault prevention. The task force, led by former Provost Steven E. Hyman, has yet to issue a finalized set of recommendations—missing an initial January deadline—although administrators said they hoped to release the report in February.
—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.
—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@ignacio_sabate.
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