At its May 6 Faculty Meeting, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) discussed recommendations made by the Committee to Address Sexual Assault at Harvard (CASAH) for improving educational and support services related to sexual violence. Faculty members consistently praised the rigor and care of the committee’s report and further discussed the importance of alcohol education, communal responsibility for a campus culture intolerant of sexual violence, the effectiveness of the College disciplinary process, and gender roles.
“I am deeply grateful to Professor Leaning and to the other members of the committee who have worked tirelessly on the difficult task of helping us prepare to address these quite serious issues,” said Harry R. Lewis, dean of Harvard College, who was joined by President Lawrence H. Summers and faculty members in a chorus of support covering the committee’s work. Lewis added: “The committee members have earned the deep respect of their colleagues in the Harvard community.”
CASAH’s report, previously submitted in mid-April to the University provost and the dean of Harvard College, underwent discussion by the Faculty Council and moved through a period of public commentary from April 17-28, including a meeting open to all members of the Harvard community on April 23. More than 50 people attended the April 23 meeting, and CASAH received more than 30 letters or e-mail messages up through the end of the month.
The report was formulated after eight months of study and more than 60 meetings with Harvard students, faculty, and staff, local medical, legal, and law enforcement authorities, staff at other Ivy League universities, and national experts on sexual violence.
Its major recommendations include the formation of a single office to coordinate campus resources, educational programming, and support services for victims of sexual violence. This office would serve as a 24/7 point of contact for students and an ongoing guide during a student’s travel toward resolution. Faculty members praised CASAH’s further suggestion that the College extend Harvard’s preventive education beyond freshman year, emphasize alcohol education, and work proactively with student leaders to help change the campus culture around sexual violence.
Sexual violence “has ancient roots and is nourished by elements of our national culture,” said Jennifer Leaning, chair of CASAH and professor of international health and assistant professor of medicine. CASAH’s research of universities nationwide determined that sexual violence is in no way unique to Harvard’s campus.
“CASAH both commended existing initiatives at Harvard and worked extremely hard to formulate meaningful mechanisms for change,” said Steven E. Hyman, University provost. “Sexual violence on college campuses is a nationwide phenomenon, and we are deeply committed to addressing this issue here at home.” It is expected that the faculty will formally note it has received the report, and ask the dean of the College for a progress report in a year’s time, at its May 20 meeting.
For more information on CASAH’s findings, see http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/04.17/19-casah.html. For the full report, see http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~casah.