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Undergraduate Council representatives criticized recent recommendations on alcohol policies in Harvard's report on sexual assault prevention, though they praised the report’s call for annual sexual assault training for students.
Representatives responded to the University’s sexual assault prevention report, which a task force released earlier this month, in a general meeting on Sunday. The culmination of almost two years of research, the wide-ranging report makes a number of proposals for schools to implement mandatory annual training on sexual assault, bolster resources for BGLTQ students, and study the effects of alcohol policies on campus.
The report calls on College administrators to consider “policies to discourage consumption of hard liquor.”
UC Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17 raised doubts over the effectiveness of such measures.
“You make it so that younger students… can’t themselves get alcohol unless they go elsewhere to get alcohol. In going elsewhere, they’re going to the very spaces that [the task force] then spend[s] half the report disparaging,” Banks said, referring to final clubs. The task force’s report condemns male final clubs and calls on administrators to combat the “disturbing practical and cultural implications they present in undergraduate life.”
Former UC Parliamentarian Jacob R. Steinberg-Otter ’16 argued that a policy restricting alcohol access would lead to more “social events that are unrecognized on campus, and that in turn encourages further bad behavior.”
Steinberg-Otter also argued that placing more security guards at entrances and exits to dorms, which the task force report recommends, would be ineffective.
Other representatives expressed concern over the pace at which the task force has worked, arguing that the issue of sexual assault deserves more immediate attention. The task force failed to meet its initial January 2016 deadline to release the report.
“I hope that the absolutely glacial pace at which this process is moving starts speeding up a little bit,” representative Evan M. Bonsall ’19 said.
Still, several representatives praised the report’s call for mandatory sexual assault prevention training for all students, and considered how the UC might assist in such an effort. Some pointed to the Finance Committee’s recently passed bystander intervention policy, which requires sexual assault training for some clubs requesting UC funding, as a valuable effort.
Finance Committee Chair William A. Greenlaw ’17, who authored the policy, said that 45 students from 20 student organizations have so far received sexual assault prevention training from OSAPR under the new policy.
However, Greenlaw also raised concerns over College-wide inconsistencies regarding sexual assault prevention training and argued that all Houses should have standardized training requirements.
“Perhaps it would be worthwhile for us to commit to lobbying our Houses to committing to doing this training,” Greenlaw said.
“When we’re talking about universal community problems of sexual assault policy [and] resources, we really want that to be standardized,” UC President Shaiba Rather ’17 said.
Representatives also emphasized the importance of student input in determining the College’s response to the task force’s proposals.
“I want to see student input in designing the programs,” Freshman Class Committee Chair Eduardo A. Gonzalez ’18 said. “We really need to have a say in how we change campus culture.”
During the discussion, many representatives discussed the role of final clubs, which the task force report condemns, in the issue of sexual assault.
While some representatives argued that final clubs were disproportionately targeted in the report, others suggested that negotiating with final clubs may be advisable.
“I would strongly recommend that we should reopen that communication, especially if we want to negotiate with them,” Greenlaw said.
Rather said that she would be open to such communication. Rather and Banks will meet with Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana later this week to discuss the UC’s perspective on the task force report.
Also during the UC’s meeting, the Council issued its first grants pack cut of the semester. After expected allocated funding to student organizations was projected to exceed its $20,763 budget this week, the Finance Committee issued a 15 percent cut on all regular grant funding for the week. The Council allocated an additional $8,820 under the body’s new Grant for an Open Harvard College.
The Council also passed legislation to fund large venue projects, Cabot Cafe, Freshman Health Week, and a raffle for Visitas hosts.
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