Harvard has appointed Alicia Oeser, the current interim director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, to serve as the same office’s next permanent director after a national search lasted over a semester, Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde announced in an email to undergraduates Thursday.
Oeser succeeds Sarah A. Rankin, who departed Harvard at the end of September to take on the then-recently created position of Title IX Investigator for MIT after seven years as OSAPR director. Oeser has served as the office’s interim director since Rankin’s departure in the fall.
As OSAPR director, Oeser’s responsibilities include supervising Response Peer Counselors and Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment advisers, according to Oeser’s staff page on the OSAPR website.
“While at Harvard, it is Alicia’s desire to increase accessibility of OSAPR to individuals of all gender identities, gender expressions, and sexualities and to continue improving provision of culturally competent, non-directive service,” the description reads.
Prior to joining OSAPR, Oeser worked in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Illinois as an LGBTQ/hate crimes specialist and at DePaul University as coordinator of sexual violence support services. Oeser declined to comment Thursday afternoon without clearance from public affairs officials.
Matt G. Wardrop ’15, a member of Consent, Assault Awareness, and Relationship Educators, praised Oeser’s appointment Thursday, calling her “relatable” and saying that it is important that OSAPR has a permanent director again.
“Alicia has shown herself to be passionate about the work [in OSAPR] and passionate about Harvard” in her time so far at the University, Wardrop said. “I think she’s going to usher in a really exciting new era for OSAPR.”
Wardrop added that Oeser will continue Rankin’s “legacy of inspiring student leaders” in the office.
With Rankin’s departure in the fall, administrators convened a committee of faculty, staff, and students to search for a replacement, and the search was national in scope, Lassonde wrote in the announcement email.
Harvard University Health Services spokesperson Lindsey Baker said in December that the committee had by then finished its initial review of applications for the position. Director of the Department of Health Promotion and Education and Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services Ryan M. Travia oversaw the search.
Much of Rankin’s tenure as OSAPR director overlapped with a time of heated debate surrounding issues of sexual assault and Harvard’s sexual assault policy. In fall 2012, a referendum on the Undergraduate Council presidential election ballot calling for the reconsideration of the College’s sexual assault policies passed with 85 percent of the vote.
Harvard also recently created administrative positions in an effort to address Harvard’s sexual assault policies and the University’s compliance with Title IX. The University appointed federal civil rights attorney Mia Karvonides to serve as its first Title IX officer in spring 2013, and she later convened a working group to consider Harvard’s sexual assault policies.
Last November, Associate Dean of Student Life William Cooper ’94 and Administrative Board case manager Emily J. Miller were named the College’s first-ever Title IX coordinators.
—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.