Harvard Protest: Red Tape on Grads' Caps Hits Sexual Assault Policy

Friday, 30 May 2014 08:15 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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Harvard University graduates protested the school's policy toward sexual assault during this year's commencement ceremony by adding red tape to their mortarboards.

The students' protest echoed a 1999 Columbia University protest that called attention to the red tape bureaucracy involved in rape reporting, and at 2014's commencement it supported the Our Harvard Can Do Better campaign, which advocates "Title IX enforcement." Several campus groups and students documented the protest on Twitter.

"Students from across the College who have been involved in different campaigns, different issues, different forms of activism decided that . . . now was a really special opportunity to continue expressing the student voice and demonstrate to Harvard that the student voice is important, and that we are willing to stand up for the issues that we believe [in] and hold the University accountable,” said graduating senior and one of the protest organizers, Lily H. Ostrer, The Harvard Crimson reported.

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The debate about how sexual assault is handled at the university was reignited by an op-ed penned in The Crimson earlier this year, and by late March undergrads had filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights claiming the school's policies violate federal Title IX regulations, which bars schools from gender-based discrimination. The department accepted the complaint, and began an investigation.

According to Bloomberg News, the Our Harvard group said the school's existing policy was discouraging of students pursuing discipline for assailants and failed to properly inform them about the outcomes of sexual-assault proceedings.

University President Drew G. Faust subsequently announced in April that it had submitted a new policy to the OCR, and commissioned task force to sexual assault issues.

The Huffington Post reported that Michelle Maziar, cofounder of HarvardSDR, said Thursday that the task for has enabled "positive" and "earnest" communication with Harvard administrators.

The task force has recently set up a website that allows rape survivors to confidently submit stories and comments about their experiences.

Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal said, "We recognize information sharing, when authorized by a victim, may increase the effectiveness of service delivery, victim safety, and offender accountability. Submissions received confidentially will be collected and presented to the larger task force without identifying information."

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