The ballot measure, which grew out of an earlier petition, asks for a couple of key measures. One is as adopting a standard of “affirmative consent,” which sounds redundant but in fact is meaningful. The term refines the definition of consent from “not saying no to sex” to “saying yes to the sex with words or clearly enthusiastic actions.” This is necessary not to harshly punish people caught in seemingly ambiguous situations, but rather to prevent these situations from being as ambiguous in the first place. It rejects the “gatekeeper” model of sexual consent, where one partner, usually a woman, rejects sex repeatedly before finally “giving in,” a model normalizes sex after one party says no repeatedly. It sets the requirement of clear communication up front, and it puts the onus on someone pursuing sex to receive clear communication that their advances are wanted rather than only requiring them to stop if they get a signal it isn’t. It requires and encourages equal agency for both partners.
read more: [Crimson] Revise the Policy
Dear Students of Harvard College,
We call upon you to encourage Harvard College to re-examine its sexual assault policies and practices.
After increased attention to Title IX discrimination by the Office of Civil Rights, Harvard continued an internal investigation into its sexual assault policies until June of this year, when it determined it would not change its grievance process. Despite this decision, we believe that the incidence of two stranger rapes on campus, the struggle of a Harvard University employee to seek recompense after being sxually harassed in the workplace, and the large-scale adoption of more progressive policies by its peer institutions should steer the college in a direction where it critically evaluates current procedures.
“Rape culture” describes a society in which sexual violence is trivialized and survivors of sexual assault are blamed for speaking out. Such attitudes create a campus climate that is harmful to both the safety and the agency of its students. Our Harvard can do better. We believe that in order to prioritize the well-being of the student body, the college should re-examine its sexual assault policies and practices to reflect the values and needs of its students, by considering the following changes:
- Reframing the sexual assault policy to reflect affirmative consent
- Releasing confidentially each incidence of sexual assault and the relevant actions taken by the administration as per the Federal Clery Act, based on the resolution agreement between Yale and the Office of Civil Rights
- Specifying the “mental incapacitation” phrase to more clearly determine the point at which someone is unable to consent under the influence
- Using language inclusive of LGBTQ-identifying students
- Setting a length of time the administrative board may take to address a sexual assault grievance to ensure accountability of the grievance process
- Increasing the number of staff members and the amount of funding allotted to the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention (OSAPR)
- Offering comprehensive and inclusive sex education for all students of all years
- Actively engaging student voices in addressing these changes
Students who signed the petition below agree that Harvard College should re-examine its sexual assault policies and practices:
By Michelle Denise L. Ferreol, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER
When students vote for Undergraduate Council president this fall, they can also cast a vote calling on Harvard to revise its policies for handling sexual assault.
Thanks to an online petition that garnered the 670 signatures required by the Council to create a ballot question, voters may indicate their approval of a long list of changes to Harvard’s practices.
The referendum calls for Harvard to endorse the concept of “affirmative consent” to sex, more clearly define “mental incapacitation” that renders a person unable to consent, adopt BGLTQ-inclusive language in its assault policies, and increase the transparency of the case review process.
Kate Sim ’14, who created the successful petition along with Pearl Bhatnagar ’14, described the referendum as “a signal of our agency as students in claiming our mental and physical safety on campus.”
Launched early Thursday morning, the petition garnered more than 300 undergraduate signatures in its first 12 hours online and achieved the 670-signature target Friday evening.
Bhatnagar said that the response indicates broad student interest in changing sexual assault policies, and UC Student Initiatives Committee Chair Nicholas W. Galat ’13 added that the upcoming vote will reinforce that.
“Taking this issue to a referendum will give the UC a more credible stance on what the students want and will allow us to directly say that we do speak for the students,” Galat said.
The last time the University made substantial changes to its sexual assault policies was in 2003. After two stranger rapes—the first in 12 years—were reported at Harvard over the summer, and a former Amherst College student made waves nationwide by publishing an essay on the school’s insensitive response to her rape, Bhatnagar said Harvard should be reconsidering those policies now.
“In light of the recent reviews that our peer institutions have pursued, this is a chance for Harvard to improve upon the safety mechanisms that it already has in place for its students,” she said.