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College Launches Sexual Assault Online Training Module

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.
By Ignacio Sabate, Crimson Staff Writer

The College is launching a new online sexual assault prevention training module and requiring all undergraduates to complete the program by mid-October.

Spurred by a sexual conduct climate survey from last fall that found what University President Drew G. Faust deemed a “deeply disturbing” atmosphere on campus, the new module complies with recommendations from a University-wide task force on sexual assault prevention that advocated annual sexual assault prevention training.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. By Jennifer Y Yao

With images, videos, and text, the interactive online presentation will attempt to accomplish two goals, according to an email to undergraduates from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana: to inform students of the resources available for gender-based harassment and sexual assault, and to educate undergraduates about Harvard’s sexual and gender-based harassment policies.

Emily J. Miller, the College’s Title IX coordinator, said the module is not intended to be a complete and standalone training, adding the College anticipates “we will continue to roll things like this out in the future.”

“This is not meant to be an all-inclusive training on sexual assault prevention and response,” Miller said. “Why I think an online forum is appropriate for this type of material is that it’s really a lot of information.”

Last year’s Association of American Universities sexual conduct survey found that 31 percent of senior undergraduate females at Harvard College who responded said they had experienced “nonconsensual sexual contact” during their time at the College. A task force convened to address the issue recommended that students receive annual sexual assault prevention training, among other changes such as potentially banning hard alcohol and looking into restricting undergraduate participation in the College’s unrecognized single-gender final clubs.

The module was announced in a College-wide email from Khurana Wednesday, and he stipulated that all undergraduates must complete the program by Oct. 10. The training will be completed by each student on an annual basis, and the College may modify the training module with every new installation, Miller said.

At the end of the module, students must take an exam to measure their apprehension and answer at least 80 percent of the questions correctly. If students do not complete the tutorial or do not receive satisfactory scores, Miller will “be in touch and will follow up until they complete the training.”

Undergraduates can choose to opt-out of the program by contacting the Title IX Office, and those who do will individually receive a condensed version of the training via email. The choice to opt-out, according to Miller, is intended for students who do not feel comfortable completing the training.

While designing the survey, Miller said she emphasized the importance of helping students more easily understand Harvard’s at times confusing sexual assault policies. College staff consulted undergraduates from a range of student groups—such as the Undergraduate Council and Consent Advocates and Relationship Educators—to develop the training, Miller added.

During the development phase, these students gave feedback on the presentation, took part in early focus groups, and reviewed the training’s script.

“When you’re in this work long enough, you can start to forget what doesn’t make sense, so it was really important to have fresh eyes,” Miller said.

Undergraduates involved in its development praised the module.

Undergraduate Council president Shaiba Rather ’17 said she was “extremely happy” with the new training module. Rather, along with UC Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17, began working with the College on the training early last semester.

Jessica R. Fournier '17, an organizer of sexual assault prevention advocacy group Our Harvard Can Do Better, said her group was involved in developing the training. She called the module a step in the right direction.

“I don’t think having an online training is a replacement for in-person training where you can go more in depth and have more of a conversation,” Fournier said. “But I do think that this is a really good way to make sure all students are seeing this information.”

Miller emphasized the module exists not only as a one-time training, but as a resource should students want information about sexual assault and resources available at Harvard.

“We really want to educate people about the resources and policies and I’m not so naive as to think everyone will absorb every piece of this and absorb it forever,” Miller said, “but my hope is that students will remember it’s there if they want to go back to it.”

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