To the Editor:
It is ridiculous that last week’s discussion over Harvard’s sexual assault policy has itself become “he said/she said.” On Thursday, Lindsay Nordell ’03 (“Harvard’s sexual assault policy shameful,” 9/19) stated that the Harvard board “refuses to investigate any complaints where the victim does not have some ‘corroborating evidence’.” On Friday, Jeff Howard ’04 (“Policy change at Harvard merely procedural,” 9/20) claimed that Nordell had misrepresented the policy, saying instead that it “merely requires the board to gather and screen evidence before instituting a formal charge.” More direct sources show that Nordell’s phrasing is correct, corresponding to the Harvard Crimson’s phrasing of the policy in the many articles devoted to it.
If we reach further back, we find that the policy was rewritten partially in response to a case last year where the Harvard Board came very close to falsely convicting a student of assault. The new requirement of “corroborating evidence” meant to ensure that purely ad hominem attacks weren’t presented before the board. Viewed negatively, the new policy dissolves some of the Board’s responsibility in settling sexual assault cases and shifts this responsibility to the policy itself. Harvard, in one sense, has lost faith in the Board.
On this view, the rewrite places an uncaring intermediary, the rulebook, between a victim and what she may perceive as the only authority willing to hear her case. It then displaces responsibility from Harvard’s Administrative Board to a sundry group of relatively lesser authorities — health services, the police, friends — to determine what is evidence. Broadly it distances the Harvard Administration further from the student population, which is contrary to recent developments toward a closer relation.
Tony Lazenka ’03
September 22, 2002