To the Editor:

Lindsay Nordell’s column in Thursday’s Yale Daily News (“Harvard’s sexual assault policy shameful,” 9/19) is long on emotion and short on logic. That she chooses to attack David White personally in a vitriolic and childish manner is perhaps the best indication of how carefully considered her own opinion is. Much of the hysteria surrounding this issue has been due to the wording “mandates that a victim… produce corroborating evidence before the university will launch an investigation.”

Phrased this way, the implication is that a student would have to prove her case before the board would even deign to hear her accusation. In fact, the new policy merely requires the board to gather and screen evidence before instituting a formal charge. No “corroborating evidence” is necessary to begin an investigation, any more than “corroborating evidence” is required to file a police charge.

The only effect of the policy, in other words, is to ensure that a sexual misconduct charge has any chance of succeeding before a formal accusation is made. Viewed in this light, the only objection that Nordell could truly have to this procedural change is that it deprives individuals of the chance to thoroughly smear one another’s reputation — under the old policy, unverifiable sexual assaults would still go unpunished, since evidence was still required to discipline an offender.

Jeff Howard ’04

September 19, 2002