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Harvard Law Students Demand Sexual Assault Admissions Info
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Summary: Four Harvard Law students sought answers on how the school treats applicants with histories of sexual assault charges.

With rape on college campuses being a national problem, four 3L Harvard Law students are taking a stand. This week, The Crimson reported that the students demanded that the admissions office reveals how it handles applicants who have been accused or found guilty of sexual assault.


Recently, Emma K. O’Hara, Shayna Medley, Dixie C. Tauber, and Kelly Jo Popkin published an opinion piece in the Harvard Law Record Sunday, and they included a questionnaire that they had submitted to Harvard Law admissions officers in late March. The women, who are participants of the school’s Gender Violence Policy Workshop, told The Crimson that they were not seeking change in policy but transparency for students.

“At a baseline we want this to be a call for transparency,” Medley said. “We recognize that we don’t have all the answers and that this is a really complex issue, but to have an administration that is at least responsive to these kind of questions.”

Two years ago, the Association of American Universities conducted a survey that found more than 20% of female college students were victims of sexual assault. In response to the alarming data, many university officials began to hire more support staff and offer student services to address the issue, according to The Washington Post. The report said that there was “no magic bullet” to fix this problem but that universities could take steps to help their students.

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“There is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all approach: universities have undertaken a wide variety of actions including increased and targeted training, greater awareness-building, better coordinated data collection,” the report said. “And greater levels of collaboration within institutions and their communities.”

The four students asked that Harvard Law discloses the applicant information that they collected regarding sexual assault, and the questionnaire was addressed to associate dean of admissions Jessica L. Soban, director Thomas E. Robinson, associate director Anne M. Taylor, and assistant director Nefyn Meissner.

“I think we were all sort of motivated to want to do this particular topic now given that it’s admissions season,” Tauber said. “We thought that this is important information that potential incoming students would want to know. We all debated whether some of this information would have changed our opinions on whether to come to Harvard Law.”

Soban told The Crimson that the admissions office had previously not answered the students’ questionnaire, but on April 25, the office released a statement.

“In our application, we ask questions that help us to evaluate the character and fitness of applicants, not just for entry into the HLS community, but also for entry into the practice of law,” Soban wrote. “Inquiries into academic or professional misconduct or into criminal charges are undertaken in accordance with state and federal laws, which include relevant privacy statutes. We consider all information available to us, and we make admissions decisions based on that information.”

O’Hara responded to Soban’s statement, saying that it lacked the data that they had requested.

“We assume that HLS acts in compliance with state and federal law, but hope HLS will treat state and federal law as a floor, not a ceiling, on students’ rights to guide the admissions process,” O’Hara said.

Source: The Crimson 

Photo courtesy of Harvard Law

What do you think of the students’ request? Let us know in the comments below.


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