Harvard's Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts: 11 Months Later

Many of a University-wide task force's recommendations for preventing sexual assault at Harvard remain unfulfilled.
By Hannah Natanson and Claire E. Parker

In 2015, students rallied outside Massachusetts Hall, calling on the College to commit more resources and attention to sexual assault.
In 2015, students rallied outside Massachusetts Hall, calling on the College to commit more resources and attention to sexual assault. By Y. Kit Wu

UPDATED: February 27, 2017 at 7:57 p.m.

The article accompanying these annotations can be found here.

Last March, a University-wide task force dedicated studying sexual assault prevention released its wide-ranging final report. In its 20-page document, the task force made a number of recommendations for how Harvard could better combat sexual assault on campus, including hiring an additional administrator and mandating annual training for all students.

Below, The Crimson annotates some of the report's key recommendations.

Implementation Plans

University President Drew G. Faust required each of Harvard’s 13 schools to submit an implementation plan at the start of the fall semester to her office and the Office of the Provost, detailing sexual assault prevention measures they would undertake during the 2016-2017 academic year. All schools submitted plans, and former University Title IX Officer Mia Karvonides and Alicia Oeser, the Director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, met with administrators at each school to review them in the fall.

Provost's Office Position

The University has not appointed an administrator in the Provost’s office exclusively dedicated to overseeing sexual assault prevention efforts. Instead, Deputy Provost Peggy Newell has assumed this responsibility in addition to her usual duties. Newell said for now, she will continue to fill the role. “For the time being, it’s going to continue to be my responsibility,” Newell said. “As long as what the task force wanted to get done is getting done, and as long as all of our other initiatives are moving forward, and we’re doing what needs to be done, that may not be the best use of a position.”

Mandatory Annual Training

While many of Harvard’s schools conducted required in-person sexual assault prevention trainings at new student orientations, most have not mandated training for returning students.

Many graduate and professional schools are working to customize the online module debuted by the College last fall, and plan to deliver it to their students next fall. Some will tie completion of the module to registration, making it mandatory for students across all class years. Other schools only require training for incoming students.

The College implemented a “required” online annual sexual assault prevention training module for undergraduates last September, though students currently face no penalties for failing to finish the program. As of January 2017, roughly 67 percent of undergraduates had chosen to complete the module.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires all students to complete online training in order to register. This academic year, the training had a 99 percent completion rate. GSAS also provides in-person orientation training and TF-specific programming.

The Law School debuted a new online training module and revamped orientation training on sexual assault prevention in the fall, but training is currently only mandatory for first-year students. Title IX coordinators are working to tweak this training to incorporate student feedback, according to Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells. In an interview in September, Sells said administrators are considering making training mandatory for second-year and third-year Law students next year.

The Medical School is modifying the College’s online training module and will make it mandatory for all students in the fall. The school does not offer in-person training.

The Divinity School has required online training for all students through its own Prezi platform, but starting next year it will tie completion of a customized version of the College’s module to student registration. The school also provides mandatory in-person programming during orientation.

Since 2014, The Dental School has included online Title IX training as part of its new student orientation programming. Administrators are currently working to customize the College’s online training module and plan to roll it out and tie it to registration in the fall.

At the School of Public Health, the Office of Student Affairs has required incoming students to complete an online module, but training is not required for returning students.

The Business School requires all students to review a PowerPoint before registering for classes and holds in-person trainings for first-year sections in the fall.

The Kennedy School has mandatory orientation training for new students, led partly by returning students. Training is not required for returning students.

The Graduate School of Education provides a training session at new student orientation. At the beginning of the semester, the school launched a new online module that all students must complete next fall in order to register.

The Graduate School of Design’s first-year orientation includes mandatory sexual assault prevention programming, but it has not yet employed online training or required returning students to complete trainings.

Additional BGLTQ Resources

The College, which established a BGLTQ Office for Student Life prior to the report’s release, has taken several steps to enhance its resources for BGLTQ undergraduates. Administrators hired a new BGLTQ Office staffer and are planning to move the Office to a new space in Harvard Yard. The Medical School is the only graduate or professional school with a full-time administrator dedicated to BGLTQ students. Four schools provide no resources specifically for BGLTQ students.

The College created a new position—Assistant Director—in the BGLTQ Office of Student Life and hired Khánh-Anh Lê to fill it. Administrators also plan to relocate the Office to a new, larger space in Harvard Yard.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences worked with BGLTQ students in developing and testing their new online training and launched an awareness campaign.

Law School spokesperson Michelle Deakin wrote in an emailed statement that the school “has no updates to report” when asked about additional support for BGLTQ students

The Medical School provides resources specifically for BGLTQ students through its Office of Recruitment and Multicultural Affairs and LGBT Program Director Jessica Halem in its Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership.

The Divinity School recently hired a new Assistant Dean for Student Affairs who has experience working with BGLTQ populations, and many of the school’s Peer Advocates on sexual assault prevention identify as BGLTQ.

BGLTQ students at the Dental School have access to the resources offered by Medical School LGBT Program Director Jessica Halem, according to the Dental School’s Director of Student Affairs, Carrie Sylven.

The School of Public Health does not provide specific resources for BGLTQ students.

The Business School does not provide specific resources for BGLTQ students.

The Kennedy School does not provide specific resources for BGLTQ students.

The Graduate School of Education has an administrative intern who focuses on programming for BGLTQ students.

The Graduate School of Design does not provide additional resources for BGLTQ students.

Final Clubs

University President Drew G. Faust in May 2016 accepted a proposal from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana to regulate Harvard students’ off-campus social life, breaking a 30-year pattern of administrative distance from the University’s unrecognized social groups. Khurana’s policy, slated to take effect for the Class of 2021, bars members of final clubs, sororities, and fraternities from receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships and from certain holding leadership positions on campus. But a new faculty committee could significantly re-work the policy.

Alcohol Education

—Staff writer Claire E. Parker can be reached at claire.parker@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ClaireParkerDC.

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at hannah.natanson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: February 27, 2017

A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Khánh-Anh Lê, the assistant director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life.

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