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Faculty Briefed On Sexual Assault Office

Faculty also discuss PATRIOT Act and declining foreign grad student enrollment

At its biweekly meeting yesterday, the Faculty Council heard about the progress of the new Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR) and the impact of the USA PATRIOT Act on foreign graduate school applications.

Jennifer Leaning, professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the 18-member Council that since the creation of OSAPR last July, the number of students reporting incidents of sexual assault has risen slightly.

OSAPR was created at the recommendation of the Committee to Address Sexual Assault at Harvard, chaired by Leaning, after student groups rallied for the College to focus on the issue.

OSAPR Director Susan B. Marine, who also contributed to the report to the Council, said traffic has been steady.

“I’m busy,” she said. “I get a lot of calls, and I do work with a lot of students.”

Marine said no information about the volume of calls to OSAPR is publicly available, but that the office has been well received by students and that the Council was interested in its work.

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“People were curious about the education and outreach and who we’re reaching, and in what ways,” Marine said. “We talked about the freshman education program and the programs we’re doing in the Houses. People were curious about [whether] undergraduates [are] coming to the office for help, and the answer is yes.”

The Council also heard yesterday about the University’s lobbying efforts in opposition to the PATRIOT Act, which many have led to Harvard’s 15 percent drop in international applications to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Senior Director of Federal and State Relations Kevin Casey told the Council that he has been lobbying the government to make it easier for international students to obtain visas.

Council member Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature Judith Ryan, who is the director of graduate studies in the Department of Comparative Literature, said the Council discussed possible explanations for the drop.

She said that international students might be looking to attend universities in the United Kingdom and Australia instead of the United States.

“It does appear that there has been a somewhat chilling effect of the PATRIOT Act [on] the willingness of foreign students to do things like go back home for Christmas or for [the] summer,” Ryan said. “Some have had problems coming back.

Council member Richard F. Thomas, professor of Greek and Latin, said that the PATRIOT Act’s potential impact on America’s—and Harvard’s—worldwide perception could also affect graduate student applications. In that case, Thomas said, “it becomes a matter that’s not simply political.”

“The matter then would have more to do with the well-being of the University,” he said.

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 also announced several changes planned for next year’s Handbook for Students to the Council.

In the upcoming school year, students will be able to add or drop classes without penalty for up to two weeks after handing in their study cards, and for a $10 fee after that period.

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