The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response has transformed its approach to follow a “community engagement model” under the leadership of Director Pierre R. Berastaín Ojeda ’10, who took office last April.
Prior to Ojeda’s appointment, OSAPR had been without a director for more than a year. At the time, it more closely followed a clinical model, which Ojeda characterized as being more responsive than proactive. Now, the office aims to be a confidential space on campus for students that offers “pastoral care,” Ojeda said in an interview March 6.
“My philosophy in terms of doing this work, or my framework, is you go out in the community and you are a part of that community,” Ojeda said.
Ojeda said OSAPR intends to tailor its services directly to students’ needs and works to address the different faith backgrounds and sexual orientations of the College’s diverse student population.
“So what happens at campuses oftentimes is they are — you end up having a one-size-fits-all approach,” Ojeda said. “And when you do that, you end missing a lot of populations because it ends up being a one-size-fits-none.”
One way OSAPR has attempted to engage students is by reaching out to students who have recently organized rallies at the University on sexual assault, according to Ojeda. As a University office, OSAPR cannot take a position on these rallies.
“But what we can do is be visible, and say that we are here as a resource,” Ojeda said. “So for all of the rallies, we offer to the organizers that we can go to the rally and have a table separate from the rally and just offer hot chocolate and donuts and resources for people who want them. It’s a way to kind of let people know that we’re here.”
Recently, students protested against Winthrop House Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.’s decision to represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in his sexual abuse trial. At the protest, which drew more than 50 attendees, students called on College administrators to remove Sullivan from his position as faculty dean. OSAPR set up a booth at the protest and handed out snacks and pamphlets detailing the office’s resources for students.
Though Ojeda did not directly mention Sullivan’s name during the interview last week, his office issued a statement on its website about the controversy surrounding Sullivan’s decision to represent Weinstein.
“We’d like to take a moment to recognize that the recent news surrounding Professor Sullivan’s legal representation of Mr. Harvey Weinstein has created ripples among our Harvard community, and that some of you might want to process your feelings with a confidential resource,” the OSAPR staff wrote on their website in a message addressed to the student body. “Our staff is available to meet with individuals in one-on-one sessions as well as with groups in shared spaces.”
OSAPR has also created a student advisory council in an effort to more closely involve students in OSAPR’s planning. Ojeda said this was a vital part of OSAPR’s new model.
“I’m kind of tired of administration — and I don’t mean Harvard administration, I mean administration of colleges and universities throughout — that creates programming for students and students are expected to participate in them, as opposed to the students suggest programming,” Ojeda said.
—Staff writer Michelle Kurilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.
—Staff writer Tamar Sarig can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @tamar_sarig.