Letter of Solidarity for Victims of Sexual Assault

September 30, 2018

Earlier this week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick bravely came forward and shared their stories about sexual misconduct and assault at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, all while facing relentless public backlash and sexism. Repeated attempts to silence survivors like Dr. Ford cast into doubt time and time again the reliability of institutions that are meant to uphold justice and our civil rights as students. At times like these, when survivors’ stories are called into question, we must come together to build collective power and hold our university accountable for supporting survivors, sanctioning perpetrators, and fighting the culture of sexual harassment.

The Undergraduate Council stands in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, and all survivors of sexual violence. We also stand with members of Harvard Law School who request a full and fair investigation into allegations against Judge Kavanaugh before he is allowed back on campus to teach.

We know that sexual violence is a pervasive, continuing problem at Harvard. The 2015 Report on the Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct stated that 19.9 percent of women, 5.2 percent of men, and 27.5 percent of trans and gender nonconforming students at Harvard reported experiencing sexual assault during their time in college. Much like on the national stage, the problem of sexual violence at Harvard is complicated by structures of power, as we saw when the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article exposing decades of sexual harassment on the part of Jorge Dominguez at Harvard and institutional failure to address it. The failure to hold Dominguez and other prominent perpetrators like President Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh accountable in any meaningful way, compounded with the repeated silencing of survivors like Dr. Ford, fosters a deep sense of mistrust among survivors and students at large of the institutions that are meant to empower and protect them. Less than half of female undergraduates and even fewer trans or gender-nonconforming students at Harvard think that campus officials would take a sexual violence report seriously.

In the coming months, the Department of Education is set to release new Title IX rules and regulations that will likely negatively affect Harvard’s ability to keep students safe. Last year, in light of federal policy relaxation in the interim after Trump’s election, Harvard took an important first step by deciding to keep its policies constant. However, we call upon the university and President Bacow to maintain their stance when the actual rules and regulations are released, speak out in support of survivors, and to continue to improve the University’s Title IX policy.

We have the utmost respect and admiration for student activists on campus, especially the Pipeline Parity Project, who have demonstrated immense courage and moral clarity, and we call upon Harvard to center their demands that Kavanaugh not return to campus without an independent investigation of previous sexual assault allegations. The Undergraduate Council stands as an ally for survivors. We believe you; please reach out via email or facebook if you want to speak about this or any other issue. Additionally, some resources to reach out to include:

In solidarity,

Your representatives on the Harvard Undergraduate Council