Harvard students invited to contact OCR!

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the US Dept. of Education has opened an investigation into Harvard College's sexual assault policies and practices' compliance with Title IX. Thanks in part to two years of active organizing by students, Harvard administration has recently announced the creation of multiple task forces to address sexual assault policy and prevention. We hope the OCR investigation can provide a mechanism of outside scrutiny and oversight as the College and FAS's internal review processes get underway

Harvard students are invited to share their experiences and insights with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) during the course of its investigation. Broad student participation will help the OCR evaluate how Harvard can best cultivate a campus climate that feels safe for all students and shape policies that reflect the nuances of an evolving community. Through discussions with a diverse group of undergraduates, the OCR aims to learn how students experience the current state of affairs at Harvard and what we envision as a safe and supportive learning environment going forward

Students are encouraged to speak with the Office of Civil Rights starting today and continuing into the summer and next fall. Survivors can get in touch to seek remedy for previous or on-going violations of Title IX. Other students can share their thoughts on gender discrimination, the campus climate, and policies and procedures. These conversations are confidential and can be anonymous. Students can speak to an OCR investigator on the phone or in person (in the Boston area). 

Please fill out this survey so we can help connect you (as an individual) or your student organization to the OCR. 

Feel free to contact us with any questions. 

 

INVESTIGATION OPENED!!!

We are excited to announce that we have received official notification from the Office of Civil Rights that an investigation into Harvard College is opening! We express our hopes that this investigation can serve as a springboard for substantive and productive dialogue between the administration and students and survivors about the critical changes to policy and practices needed on campus. 

Coverage here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/28/harvard-investigation-sexual-assault_n_5225901.html?1398704928

 

Clarification about Complainants

Since my name keeps getting mentioned in connection with our filing I want to reiterate that I am not the face of this campaign nor its mouthpiece. I filed - along with Our Harvard Can Do Better - as a proxy to protect the anonymity of survivors. 

The proxy option on the Title IX complaint has not received much media attention because complaints at other schools have often been driven by the narratives of survivors who went public. It as a mark of the oppressiveness of the environment at Harvard that coming forward publicly and by name is unthinkable for many survivors here. 

Many survivors on this campus have been so wounded by the administration that having to reengage with the administration during the OCR investigation process would be an intolerable burden. Our Harvard's work over the past two years has taught us that the status quo is consistently harming survivors and that we need systematic and sweeping change. That's why WE filed.  

~ Emily Fox-Penner

 

Press Statement

Press Statement - April 3, 2014 

Our Harvard Can Do Better Files Title IX Complaint against Harvard College

On Friday, March 28, 2014, a group of students from Harvard College filed a Title IX sexual assault complaint to the Office of Civil Rights. For the past year, the organizers of Our Harvard Can Do Better have been working with survivors and allies - including the author of this week’s Crimson op-ed, “Dear Harvard, You Win” - to document the ways in which Harvard has created and perpetuated a hostile environment on campus for many students and especially for survivors of sexual assault. The experiences recounted in Monday’s op-ed reflect systematic Title IX violations in Harvard’s accommodations, disciplinary processes, and training, and demonstrate the University’s continued dismissal of student input.

 

The experiences of the anonymous survivor who wrote “Dear Harvard, You Win” exemplify a greater campus environment of victim-blaming and university indifference. Harvard’s pattern of discounting the psychological and emotional trauma of survivors as legitimate grounds for academic and residential accommodations results in survivors being forced to live in the same dorm and eat in the same dining hall as their perpetrator and to remain in severely triggering academic settings at the expense of their well-being and educational experience.   

 

Survivors with whom we have worked have repeatedly been given false or inadequate information from administrators about pursuing accommodations, including coursework extensions, no-contact orders, and housing changes. Survivors have regularly been discouraged from pursuing disciplinary cases. Those who did pursue a case sometimes were not notified before their case was heard and learned that the Administrative Board had proceeded only after hearing the verdict. Some survivors have received this verdict verbally without any formal written notice.

 

We acknowledge the recent steps Harvard has taken to reexamine Title IX compliance on campus. Nevertheless, Harvard’s consistent shunning of student voice on the issue of sexual assault policy has led us to believe in the need for an externally-imposed mechanism for oversight of the policy review process to ensure its accountability to survivors.

 

Last spring, Our Harvard Can Do Better posed a referendum question in the Undergraduate Council (UC) elections asking students, “Do you think Harvard should re-examine its sexual assault policies and practices?” The referendum passed with 85% of votes. In an effort to appear responsive to student voice in the wake of the referendum question, Harvard convened a Sexual Assault Resources Student Working Group but proceeded to ignore the suggestions of the students who participated. Students unanimously agreed to recommend policy revisions in the working group report, but the administration removed these policy recommendations from the final document before its presentation to the Dean of the College in disregard of student voice.

 

The outcome of the Student Working Group demonstrates the need for external oversight in order to ensure Harvard’s accountability to survivors. We call on the Office of Civil Rights to open an investigation to ensure that Harvard not only reforms its policies on paper, but commits itself wholeheartedly to creating a safer and more just campus.

(PDF here)