Members of anti-sexual assault advocacy group Our Harvard Can Do Better outlined their goals for the semester, saying they will focus on implementing a recently-approved referendum that asks Harvard administrators to open sexual assault task forces to all interested students.
At an off-the-record meeting Tuesday evening, organizers of the group—who have criticized the University’s response to campus sexual assault—discussed the organization’s prior advocacy work and encouraged new members to join the group, according to Jessica R. Fournier ’17, an organizer of the group.
Fournier said the group primarily plans to focus on implementing a referendum from last election's Undergraduate Council ballot, which asked whether Harvard should make open to all students task forces analyzing sexual assault policy. About 76 percent of voters expressed approval of the referendum, although not enough undergraduates voted in the election for the measure to become the UC’s official stance.
Fournier said organizers will push for administrators to invite more undergraduates to task forces that review Harvard’s Title IX policies—a move that would be a direct response to the referendum. Some task forces, including one focused on sexual assault prevention, contain undergraduates. Still, some students, including Julia R. Geiger ’16 and organizers of Our Harvard Can Do Better criticized the University last semester for what they said was a lack of student input in Title IX policy changes.
“I think our focus is more focused and targeted on policy and activism around administrative response,” Fournier said. “[We] see our role as a voice outside of the administration, outside of Harvard, that is able to be critical of what the administration is doing and to push… a policy-oriented angle.”
Harvard has faced increased criticism in recent years as students host rallies and the federal government continues an investigation into the College’s Title IX compliance. Fournier said investigators from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights have not recently provided updates on the investigation, which began in early 2014 after at least one undergraduate filed a federal complaint. Since the investigation’s inception, investigators have visited campus to interview undergraduates.
A sexual conduct climate survey, which showed that 31 percent of undergraduate senior women had experienced some form of sexual misconduct while enrolled at Harvard, drew powerful reactions from administrators last semester, who called the data “deeply distressing.”
Administrators on a University-wide task force also hope to release a report of recommendations on the prevention of sexual assault this month.
—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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