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Nearly six months after a University task force submitted a number of recommendations to combat sexual assault on campus, the College has submitted a plan to address the proposals, revamped training, and introduced a new policy that will penalize single gender organizations—but many action items are still pending.
Campus discourse over the past year has been dominated by the topic of sexual assault, as administrators responded to high rates of sexual violence on campus and students called on the College to bolster resources and support for victims.
Last September, University President Drew G. Faust sent a University-wide email sharing the results of the sexual climate survey administered over the past spring, which indicated that about a third of female undergraduate respondents reported experiencing some form of sexual assault during their time at the College.
A full year since University President Drew G. Faust called the results of a Harvard-wide campus sexual conduct climate survey “deeply troubling,” the College has implemented some recommendations a University-wide task force on sexual assault prevention released in March.
Indeed, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said in an interview earlier this month that the College submitted a plan to the task force in response to the report released in March, though that plan has not been made public.
While the survey results and task force recommendations were distributed to the entire University, findings focused heavily on misconduct among undergraduates. The report, for example, wrote that recommendations disproportionately target the College’s students and administrators, citing the school’s residential character and unique social atmosphere.
Since the University released the findings of it sexual assault survey, administrators this fall introduced a mandatory online sexual assault prevention training module. College spokesperson Rachael Dane cited a series of town halls hosted by administrators including Faust and increased staffing in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life as initiatives administrators have also spearheaded in the last year.
Dane also pointed to the historic sanctions Harvard announced last spring, penalizing membership in the College’s unrecognized single gender final clubs and Greek organizations, as a step taken to address sexual harassment and assault. That policy will go into effect beginning with the Class of 2021. Those sanctions have proven controversial, and drawn backlash from across the country. One final club, the Porcellian, commissioned a statistical analysis questioning the connection between sexual assault and clubs.
In an email to undergraduates debuting the policy in May, Faust wrote that Khurana’s policies are meant to tackle gender exclusivity.
The number of reforms made thus far are just a start, Khurana said in an interview earlier this month.
“But I would say that over the coming weeks you will be hearing a lot more,” he said. “This is an ongoing effort of things we will be doing and announcing.”
Several committees at the College are working to further develop sexual assault prevention plans; one recommendation yet to be accepted, for example, is a study of the role of hard alcohol on campus.
One committee, composed entirely of students, provides input to administrators as they process the report.
In the background, the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is still conducting a Title IX investigation into Harvard. That investigation has been ongoing since 2014.
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