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Wellesley College president: 'Sleepwalker' will stay where it is through the spring

February 20, 2014 02:55 PM


Photo by David L. Ryan, Globe Staff

Wellesley College sophomore Allie Mathews took a photo with the statue of a sleepwalking man.

The president of Wellesley College announced today that the college will definitively keep the Sleepwalker statue where it stands until the end of the temporary exhibit this spring.

The realistic-looking statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear near the center of Wellesley College created a stir among the women on campus earlier this month, especially as hundreds of students at the all-women's college signed a petition asking administrators to remove it.

But Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly said in an internal communication to the school community Thursday that after weighing many perspectives, she decided that “we cannot destroy the artistic integrity of this exhibition by moving the sculpture, and also, we must do everything we can to support those students who find themselves deeply affected by it.”

Bottomly wrote that she reached the decision after talking with students, faculty, and staff.

"I have welcomed the depth of the dialogue and am grateful for the many voices and perspectives that have productively contributed to conversations about art, freedom, censorship, and feminism, to name a few," Bottomly wrote on her official blog.

The statue is part of an art exhibit featuring sculptor Tony Matelli at the college's Davis Museum. The exhibit, New Gravity, features sculptures that are often reversed, upended or atomized.

However, the statue of the sleepwalker -- which is hard to miss in a high-traffic area by both pedestrians and drivers near the campus center -- caused outrage among some students in just one day after its Feb. 3 installation. Zoe Magid, a Wellesley College junior majoring in political science, started a petition on with other students asking college president Bottomly to have the statue removed.

"[T]his highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community," says the petition. "While it may appear humorous, or thought-provoking to some, it has already become a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work in this space."

Matelli previously told the Globe that he thinks criticism of the Sleepwalker is unfounded.

“Everyone brings to a work of art their own interpretation, their own history and their own baggage,” he said. “I think people might be seeing things in that work that just aren’t there.”

Tony Matelli: New Gravity will be on exhibit from Feb. 5 through May 11 in the Bronfman and Chandler galleries, and Feb. 5 through July 20 in the Jobson and Tanner galleries. The exhibition is free and open to the general public.

Follow us on Twitter: @ycwellesley, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

Q&A with Tony Matelli, artist behind Wellesley College's scantily-clad sleepwalking statue

February 6, 2014 12:55 PM


David L. Ryan, Globe Staff

Sleepwalker, painted bronze. by Tony Matelli.

A realistic-looking statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear near the center of Wellesley College created a stir not only among the women on campus, but also news and media outlets across the country Wednesday.

Handout photo
Sculptor Tony Matelli
The painted bronze statue, titled Sleepwalker, has caused hundreds of Wellesley students to sign a petition asking the college's president to remove the undies-clad man. The administration has made no indication that it will be moved.

Artist Tony Matelli, who will speak at Wellesley tonight to celebrate the official opening of his Davis Museum exhibit New Gravity, said he was surprised and delighted that Sleepwalker has captured the attention of America.

We caught up with Matelli Wednesday afternoon to find out more about Sleepwalker, his artistic intent, and Matelli's reactions to his newfound fame.


What were you aiming to do or say with Sleepwalker?

The sculpture is of a man who is hopelessly lost and out of place. What I was wanting to do with the work is just present that idea of misplacement, of loss and abandon and of being asleep at the wheel, really. It's a feeling we all have often, and a feeling we relate to.

Why did you decide to place the statue where it is?

A lot of outdoor sculpture feels very stiff and very solid and dropped from outer space almost, and it doesn't interact with the landscape. I wanted to create something that feels misplaced and vulnerable, because that's how I feel sometimes. Also, it was suited for the space. It was designed to be in a landscape.

Not sure if you've noticed, but your Sleepwalker has a lot of people talking.

I’m surprised by the reaction it’s elicited in some people. I think it’s great. I was talking with the curator of the exhibition and my assistant this [Wednesday] morning, and we were saying, 'When was last time a work of art was talked about so much and got so much attention?' I can’t remember when. It’s been a long time since anyone spent this much time with a work of art.

I think it’s great that students are getting engaged to write and think about it. I think if everyone spends time with it and keeps their heads cool, a lot of good will come of it. It’s good for art in general, not just the piece, because art is open and designed to solicit responses, no matter what they are.

I think it’s terrific – I couldn’t be happier, and I feel privileged it’s on the Wellesley campus and has gotten so much attention.

Some students on campus are upset about the statue -- say that the statue is in to visible a location, and can be a trigger for those who have experienced sexual assault. What do you think about that?

Everyone brings to a work of art their own interpretation, their own history and their own baggage. I think people might be seeing things in that work that just aren’t there. I think that those people should think through that and work through it and get to understand the work a little better, and also understand their feelings a little better. I just don’t see that in the work – I think they’re seeing something that’s just not there.

Do you know of any plans for the administration to take down or move Sleepwalker?

As far as I know, there are no plans to remove it. It was chosen for that site for specific reasons. It was placed there because you can see it from the upstairs exhibition room, and it becomes part of the show in a different way. When you see him through the window while you’re warm inside looking at the other 20 sculptures, that one feels more misplaced, and more vulnerable. It was chosen for that location specifically, not arbitrarily. There’s no sidewalk there, so students aren’t forced to walk next to it.

As far as it being moved, there probably are other locations, but I’m not eager to move it and I don’t think museum is planning to move it either.

Some students on campus were also saying they were concerned the statue was a man in an all-female environment.

I’ve also done women statues – I’ve done a female Sleepwalker. This just happens to be male. It has nothing to do with this being a women’s college whatsoever. The manner is mundane and irrelevant – there’s no reason it being a man; I mean, it’s half our population. Men are not surprising in our landscape, and it should not be a surprise in any landscape.

Did you model the Sleepwalker after anyone specific, like a brother or uncle?

[Laughs] It’s not a relative – it’s a model I know. He is an artist and involved in theater and dance and in good shape so he could hold that pose for a long time. He just happened to be the perfect age, and available to physically model this sculpture. I changed some stuff about him – for example, I changed his hair; he’s not bald. So it’s not a portrait. For me, it’s supposed to stand in as anonymous in a way, as just any man.

Are there any other outdoor sculptures on Wellesley's campus as part of your exhibit?

Yes, he’s not the only lost figure – there is also a stray dog, which is also painted bronze. It’s a seeing eye dog, so conceivably, these two were once together. The seeing eye dog is walking somewhere else, on the other side of campus, but it’s rendered in the same way; the aesthetic looks similarly fashioned. The thing about the seeing eye dog is its owner is not there – that brings to mind a whole other set of questions.

What's your educational background as an artist?

I studied sculpture and received an MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit. It’s similar to Wellesley in a sense – it’s on a big beautiful landscape, and cloistered away from reality a bit. But that was a while ago. I’ve been practicing in New York for the past 17 years.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about Sleepwalker or your exhibit?

This is one piece in a much larger exhibition. It’s easy to talk about this work and lose that fact. I hope everybody sees that this piece is a part of a larger of exhibition and Wellesley sculptures. There’s more in museum that should be viewed along with Sleepwalker.


Matelli will host an artist talk at Wellesley College tonight, Feb. 6, in Collins Cinema at 5:30 p.m. The talk will be followed by a reception 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Davis Museum galleries and museum.

Tony Matelli: New Gravity will be on exhibit from Feb. 5 through May 11 in the Bronfman and Chandler galleries, and Feb. 5 through July 20 in the Jobson and Tanner galleries. The exhibition is free and open to the general public.

Follow us on Twitter: @ycwellesley,@yourwellesley, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

Realistic statue of man in his underwear at Wellesley College sparks controversy

February 5, 2014 10:00 AM


Tony Matelli's Sleepwalker, is part of an art exhibit at Wellesley College's Davis Museum.

A realistic-looking statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear near the center of Wellesley College has created a stir among the women on campus, especially as more than 100 students at the all-women's college signed a petition asking administrators to remove it.

The statue, called Sleepwalker, is part of an art exhibit featuring sculptor Tony Matelli at the college's Davis Museum. The exhibit, New Gravity, features sculptures that are often reversed, upended or atomized.

However, the statue of the sleepwalker -- which is hard to miss in a high-traffic area by both pedestrians and drivers near the campus center -- has caused outrage among some students in just one day after its Feb. 3 installation. Zoe Magid, a Wellesley College junior majoring in political science, started a petition on with other students asking college president H. Kim Bottomly to have the statue removed.

"[T]his highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community," says the petition. "While it may appear humorous, or thought-provoking to some, it has already become a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work in this space."

Davis Museum director Lisa Fischman wrote on Wellesley College's official website that the sculpture was meant to evoke response.

"We placed the Sleepwalker on the roadside just beyond the Davis to connect the exhibition -- within the museum -- to the campus world beyond," Fischman wrote, also posting it on as her response to the petition. "I love the idea of art escaping the museum and muddling the line between what we expect to be inside (art) and what we expect to be outside (life)."

Fischman noted that reactions on campus have been "varied," and even wrote that she has heard that some find the statue "troubling." However, she noted that the sculpture's whole intent was to start discussion.

"As the best art does, Tony Matelli's work provokes dialogue, and discourse is at the core of education," she wrote.

However, Magid said over the phone Tuesday that Fischman's response failed to address students' concerns.

"We were really disappointed that she seemed to articulate that she was glad it was starting discussion, but didn't respond to the fact that it's making students on campus feel unsafe, which is not appropriate," Magid said. "We really feel that if a piece of art makes students feel unsafe, that steps over a line."

At the college on Tuesday, many drivers could be seen slamming on their brakes as they approached or passed the statue, craning their necks for a second look. Many students were seen making a casual beeline for the new addition on campus -- some smiled and laughed as they got closer; others frowned and seemed apprehensive. All reached for their smartphones to take a photo.

"I honestly didn't even want to get too close to him," said Laura Mayron, a Wellesley College sophomore. "It honestly makes me a little uncomfortable with how real he looks. It's odd."

Bridget Schreiner, a Wellesley freshman, said Tuesday afternoon that she had already signed the petition that was posted late Monday night.

Schreiner said she felt “freaked out” the first time she saw the statue, thinking for a moment that a real, nearly naked person was lingering near the campus center.

“This could be a trigger for students who have experienced sexual assault,” she said.

Others said while the statue came as a surprise, they understood the artist’s intention.

“I find it disturbing, but in a good way,” said Sarah Wall-Randell, an English professor at Wellesley. “I think it’s meant to be off-putting – it’s a schlumpy guy in underpants in an all-women environment.”

Wellesley College senior Annie Wang, an art history major, said she acknowledged that the statue forced passers-by to contemplate the very nature of art.

However, she said she wished to see the statue moved out of such a public space.

“I think art’s intention is to confront, but not assault, and people can see this as assaulting,” Wang said. “Wellesley is a place where we’re supposed to feel safe. I think place and a context matters, and I don’t think this is the place to put it.”

Matelli is slated to appear on campus next week at a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is one of four films the college is showing this semester to complement his exhibit. Matelli is expected to speak after the screening on Feb. 12. The event begins at 6 p.m. at the Collins Cinema.

Tony Matelli: New Gravity will be on exhibit from Feb. 5 through May 11 in the Bronfman and Chandler galleries, and Feb. 5 through July 20 in the Jobson and Tanner galleries. The exhibition is free and open to the general public.

Follow us on Twitter: @ycwellesley,@yourwellesley, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

Reports of sexual assaults rise on Boston-area college campuses

February 3, 2014 11:00 AM

Reports of sexual assaults at Boston-area colleges have risen over the past five years, a Globe review of federally reported data has found.

Campus safety experts say the rise in reporting of sexual assaults suggests that many colleges – pushed by government agencies, victims, and new federal guidelines – are improving efforts to address the problem by expanding education and outreach and by more thoroughly reporting the widely underreported crime.

“When we see sexual assault numbers increase, that hopefully means the barriers to reporting are finally beginning to be addressed, which means you are beginning the steps to solve the problem,” said S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative who has spent more than two decades studying campus safety.

An estimated 88 percent of college victims do not formally report sexual assaults, according to a federal study.

Across 22 of the largest campuses in and around Boston, reports of “forcible sex offenses” rose by nearly 40 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the most recent data supplied by colleges as required under the federal Clery Act.

The total of 113 sexual assaults reported in 2012 at the Boston-area colleges reviewed for this report is the highest level in a decade, and mirror trends at campuses nationwide. Meanwhile, reports of other serious type of crime at area schools – murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson – have declined or barely increased, according to the federal data.

The Clery reports cover allegations of crimes that occurred on campus, including dorms and other public property; at property owned by but separated from the main campus; and fraternities and sororities. They exclude other off-campus housing.

Below are examples from some of the schools’ with data that stood out:


Over the past five years, Harvard University has consistently reported more sexual assaults per year, and more incidents per enrolled student, than any other campus in the Boston area. In 2012, 38 cases were reported, up from 19 in 2008.

Harvard officials said the university has been active in recent years in trying to address the issue, including creating in 2002 a centralized office with victim-support services and resources to help students learn about sexual assault prevention and response.

“We firmly believe that more robust reporting of sexual assaults by victims is an important component of our efforts to prevent these crimes and ensure that victims get the support that they need,” said Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin.

UMass Boston

UMass Boston reported the second-highest number of alleged assaults in 2012, at 13, up from 0 five years earlier.

Crystal Valencia, a spokeswoman for the school, said none of the 2012 incidents involved a student from the university and only one of the 2012 reported incidents occurred on campus. The others happened at off-campus property the university either owns, leases, or controls.

“UMass Boston is committed to maintaining the highest standards for the safety and security of every person on campus,” Valencia said.

BU, Northeastern

Over the past five years, Harvard has led all local schools reporting on average about 10 sexual assaults each year for every 10,000 students. Still, those rates are still well-below estimates of actual annual rape rates. For instance, a 2007 Department of Justice-funded study estimated that about 5.2 percent of college women, or 520 in every 10,000, are sexually assaulted each year; the study did not calculate a rate for men or men and women together.

Other large local schools have reported significantly fewer sexual assaults each year. Over the past five years, Boston University and Northeastern University have each reported on average about two sexual assaults each year for every 10,000 students.

Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that trains colleges and universities to comply with the Clery Act, said she’s usually most alarmed by Clery reports with low sexual assault figures.

“We constantly tell parents and students that higher sexual assault numbers aren’t necessarily a bad thing,” she said. “It often means students know where to go to report and that they’re comfortable doing so.”

“I’m typically more concerned when I see a school reporting zeroes across the board,” Kiss added.

Yet, “All too-often it’s the colleges with the higher statistics that get labeled as being dangerous when in fact they’re usually the ones who are doing a better job reporting,” Carter said.

Madeleine Estabrook, associate vice president for student affairs at Northeastern, said the university is “very diligent” in reporting its Clery data.

She said the school’s low sexual assault reporting may be due to a wide range of variables that could impact the data, including the school’s geographic location and configuration, the number of students living on campus and the university’s efforts around sexual assault prevention and response.

“The work that is done to make the campus safe in secure is a very important variable to consider,” Estabrook said.

She said that five years ago, with help from a grant from the Department of Justice, the university revamped its violence support, response and education programming. That effort included building a collaboration among existing services on the campus, uniting programs around sexual assault, alcohol use and other campus safety issues.

Estabrook said the university's programming around campus safety is regarded as "cutting edge not only in Boston but also nationally."

BU created a campus crisis center in 2012 to focus on rape and sexual assault prevention and support for victims of such acts as well as other forms of physical abuse, such as hazing.

Colin Riley, a spokesman for BU, said the university is thorough and accurate in its reporting of Clery data.

And, "We also recognize it’s very important that students feel comfortable reporting," he said.

Riley said the university works to ensure students are aware of the issue.

"This is a topic that is frequently discussed on campus," he said.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Congress, experts call on federal officials, campuses to improve campus sexual assault data collection efforts

February 3, 2014 11:00 AM

More than three dozen members of Congress have written to the federal office in charge of enforcing the Clery Act, calling on it to do a better job of collecting data on campus sexual assaults.

Advocacy groups and researchers have been calling for better, more transparent data collection for years. The Globe’s review of Clery data -- federally mandated reports on campus crime -- found that the number of assaults reported by most, if not all, campuses – both locally and nationally – over the past decade have been much lower than estimates of numerous studies.

Even with a spike in reported campus sexual assaults over the past five years, the rates schools are reporting come nowhere close to figures in a 2007 Department of Justice-funded study which estimated that about 5.2 percent of college women are sexually assaulted each year.

Experts say such low numbers tend to mean schools either need to do more to make students feel comfortable reporting the crime or schools need to do a more thorough, honest job in their methods for collecting and reporting the data, or a combination of the two. Stronger federal oversight could be a key driver for this, too, experts say.

Campuses urged to monitor prevalence, not just reported cases

One part of the letter signed by 39 members of Congress called on the US Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to require colleges and universities to conduct anonymous surveys of students to more accurately report how prevalent sexual assault is on each campus – not simply how often it is reported.

An estimated 88 percent of victims do not formally report the crime, according to a 2007 study funded by the Department of Justice.

David Lisak, a clinical psychologist who has spent the past three decades researching campus sexual assault, said the fact that few, if any, schools study how prevalent the crime actually is on their campuses “underscores one of the major shortcomings in how higher education has been handling sexual assault.”

Lisak, who recently retired from teaching at UMass Boston, has advised US military officials on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault cases at service academies.

He said that changes made by the Department of Defense in just the past several years has led military academies to implement better methods of collecting meaningful data about sexual assaults than higher education has managed over the past two-and-a-half decades since the Clery Act was signed into law in 1990.

The country’s three military academies not only compile annual statistics on sexual assaults reported to authorities, but also conduct an anonymous survey of cadets and midshipmen every two years to get a more accurate picture of how many sexual assaults actually occur.

For example, during the 2011-12 academic year, 58 sexual assaults were reported at the service academies, according to a report from the Department of Defense to Congress. But an anonymous survey estimated the actual number of sexual assaults at the academies that year was about 526.

“We’ve really been focusing our efforts on trying to increase reporting so victims can get the help they need,” said Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson.

Asked why few, if any, higher education institutions anonymously survey students regularly about sexual assault, Lisak said: “Because then the numbers are out there.”

“There’s still a lot of resistance,” he added. “All universities have mechanisms already in place [to conduct such a survey]. This would not be technically challenging really at any level. We really just need the will.”

The Jan. 29 letter from members of Congress also urges the education department office to: be more transparent about its investigations and enforcement actions around campus sexual assault and harassment; create a central, public database about laws and guidelines schools are expected to follow around the issue of sexual assault; and to require campuses to be more transparent in disclosing what each is doing to prevent and respond to sexual assault, including making available information about crime statistics, enforcement actions, and students’ rights under Title IX.

When asked for a response to the letter, Education Department press secretary Dorie Nolt said in a statement: “We have received the letter and will respond to it. We agree that this is a very important issue, which is why we have prioritized civil rights enforcement and are working to galvanize a national effort to help prevent sexual assaults and to better support survivors of sexual violence. In fact, last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to establish the ‘White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.’”

Federal department unsure why some Clery figures seem off

The figures that the Globe reviewed for its story on campus sexual assault came directly from an online database run by the federal Education Department.

Every higher education institution in the US that receives federal financial aid is required by law to submit he data to the department. The department then posts those figures to the website,

The data dates back to as early as 2001, but some of the crime figures, particularly between 2001 and 2003 seem unbelievably high.

Jane Glickman, a spokeswoman for the federal Education Department, also doubted the validity of some of the data between 2001 and 2003 but said she had no idea why the numbers were likely wrong and said she did not know of anyone in the department would could provide an explanation for the apparent inconsistencies.

She said the department simply collects the data from schools and posts the numbers online. She said the department tries to check back with schools if certain numbers seem off, but otherwise the department does not analyze the data it collects.

Glickman also declined to comment on, and said she did not know anyone in the department who could comment on, why the Globe’s review found that the number of sexual assaults has risen in recent years while other crime types have gone down or held relatively steady.

“The law calls on the department to collect campus crime data and ensure that institutions are complying with the law’s provisions,” Glickman wrote in an email. “We do not analyze the data or do research into why certain crime categories are going up or down.”

However, the department is the only agency in charge of enforcing the Clery Act and its data reporting rules.

In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012, the department completed a total of 59 investigations into schools suspected of not being in full compliance with the Clery Act, according to a list of the finished reports on the education department’s website that the spokeswoman referred the Globe to. Of those, 34 investigations were completed in the four years between 2009 and 2012.

She said the department does not disclose investigations that are ongoing.

The department conducts such reviews if: a complaint is filed; “a media event raises certain concerns;” the school’s independent audit “identifies serious non-compliance;” or through a “review selection process,” the website says.

Glickman said the department takes all complaints and reviews seriously but noted that some reviews take several years and said that the department has limited resources to conduct such investigations.

A 2002 study funded by the Department of Justice found that about only 36.5 percent of schools reported “crime statistics in a manner that was fully consistent with the Clery Act.”

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights also investigates allegations of colleges and universities violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law protecting students from general discrimination.

Over the past several years, the number of such complaints related specifically to campus sexual violence has risen, according to data provided by department spokesman Jim Bradshaw.

In the both the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year there were 11 such complaints. There were 18 complaints in 2011 and 17 the following year before the number of complaints spiked to 30 during 2013.

In the department’s current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, there have already been 13 such complaints.

The office said it currently has 39 pending Title IX investigations involving allegations of sexual violence at post-secondary institutions.

Still, experts say more needs to be done to hold schools accountable.

“The Office for Civil Rights is broken,” said Colby Bruno, an attorney at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, who runs training programs about the education rights of sexual assault victims and helps some students file federal complaints against their schools.

“The law isn’t really lacking. Where we’re lacking is enforcement,” she added.

Getting Clery data from the Education Department website, especially for years prior to 2005, can be confusing and cumbersome.

Even after the data is found, it’s can be difficult to interpret, in part because schools are given leeway in how they interpret certain aspects of the law and thus how they report. For instance, Glickman said schools “have latitude” in how they determine what areas around their campus to include when they report Clery data.

“To me the data is vitally important because there’s a sense of accountability and I think schools need that,” said Bruno. “Reliable data is also important because we want to see if programming and prevention efforts are working.”

Other past, ongoing efforts to improve Clery

The letter from members of Congress was led by Democrat US Representatives Jackie Speier, of California, and Carolyn Maloney, of New York. The letter also said the office should provide campuses with better guidance about how to respond to same-sex violence and gender identity discrimination.

In recent years, some efforts have been made to improve the effectiveness of the Clery Act.

In a “Dear Colleague Letter” issued April 4, 2011, the federal education department outlined a series of guidelines for how colleges should respond to sexual harassment and violence.

Last year, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act, which added a section called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, a law setting new standards for how campuses report sex offenses. Schools will need to comply with those new regulations for the first time when they submit Clery reports this coming fall.

And, last week, to go along with the release of a White House report on the prevalence and devastating effects of sexual assault on college campuses, Obama created a task force of senior administration officials who, with input from campus officials, students, advocacy groups and law enforcement, will try to find ways to protect students from rape and sexual assault.

Obama said he the group’s first body of work is due in 90 days.

Advocates for sexual-assault victims say that, to go along with changes at the federal level, they have seen a surge in activism around the issue from students, campus organizations, and alumni.

Particularly, “We’re seeing a lot more victims willing to step forward and publicly talk about what happened to them and using that as a pressure for change,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-sexual violence organization.

“Hopefully that will put some pressure on colleges about how they deal with it,” he added.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Obama pledges stand against college sexual assaults

January 22, 2014 02:30 PM


Surviving in Numbers

The numbers are small and large. They symbolize days, months, and years. They describe conversations had and not had. They represent attackers and attacks, scars and bruises, nightmares and suicide attempts.

But most importantly, the numbers illustrate resilience in the face of sexual assault--legal cases won, fears abated, and messages spread.

They inform the sexual assault awareness campaign "Surviving in Numbers," a Tumblr of posters submitted by victims and an exhibit at Massachusetts colleges and universities.

"The numbers are powerful because they give freedom for someone to express their story in the numbers they choose," said Ali Safran, the creator of "Surviving in Number and a Mount Holyoke senior, in November. "They also make it easier from people who are not survivors to understand because numbers are an easy concept."

Here are two striking ones: One in five women has been sexually assaulted at college, a new White House report found, and only 12 percent of student victims report the assault.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday an initiative to combat sexual assaults, particularly those on college campuses. Obama assigned a newly formed task force of college administrators 90 days to formulate a list of recommendations on preventing and responding to college sexual assaults, reported The Associated Press.

The White House Council on Women and Girls report, entitled "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," found that 22 million American woman and 1.6 million men have been victims of sexual assaults. The criminal justice response is often lacking, the report said, due to police bias and inadequate training.

‘‘No one is more at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted than women at our nation’s colleges and universities,’’ said the report.

According to a study of 2013 Clery Act reports, there were 101 reports of forcible sex offenses and one report of a non-forcible sex offense at local colleges and universities.


Forcible sex offenses on Boston-area campuses predominantly occurred in residential buildings.


Reports of sexual assaults on campuses have increased in recent years. In 2010, 68 forcible sex offenses were reported, according to Boston-area colleges' Clery Act reports. At Harvard University, the number of reports nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012.

Harvard University Police Department spokesman Steven Catalano told in September that because rapes are under-reported, he hopes the increase in reported cases means more victims are coming forward and not that more crimes are occurring on campus.

Decreasing the number of cases and making reporting them easier is the goal of Obama's task force.

"The president is committed to solving this problem, not just as president of the United States, but as a father of two girls," senior advisor Valerie Jarrett told the AP.

Safran said her own sexual assault came the year before college. "Surviving in Numbers" was inspired by her recollections of that time.

"I thought about the number of people who I had told my story to with no result," said Safran. "Then, I focused more on the number of things I've done since the assault."

Since it launched in October 2012, "Surviving in Numbers" has received more than 250 anonymous poster submissions. Safran has worked with students at Boston University, Tufts University, and Mount Holyoke College, displaying the signs on campus and offering time and supplies for victims to make one of their own.

Safran said she hopes the Obama administration will elicit survivor input in addressing the prevalence of sexual assaults.

"It’s a great step," she said, of the initiative. "And college campuses are a great place to start."

Wellesley College professor co-authors study that says MTV’s ‘16 and Pregnant,’ ‘Teen Mom’ helped reduce teenage birthrate

January 14, 2014 01:51 PM


A study co-authored by a Wellesley College professor suggests that MTV shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” have helped reduce the teenage birthrate in the United States, countering fears that the controversial reality programs glamorize teen pregnancy.

The two TV shows led to an estimated 5.7 percent reduction in teen births nationwide, which accounts for about one-third in the country’s overall decline in teen births in the year-and-a-half after the programs debuted in 2009, according to the study by Wellesley College economist Phillip B. Levine and University of Maryland economist Melissa Schettini Kearney

The researchers said “data limitations” kept them from completing a separate analysis of how the show may have impacted the number of teen abortions in the US.

But, “teen abortion rates also fell over this period – suggesting that the shows’ impact is likely attributable to a reduction in pregnancy rather than greater use of abortion,” according to a joint press release from Wellesley College and the University of Maryland.

The National Bureau of Economic Research published the study titled “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing” on Monday.

The research says that the Great Recession was the biggest factor behind a rapid decline in the country’s teen birthrate between 2008 and 2012, the release said.

But, the study says it also found that the MTV shows had a significant impact on the teen birthrate reduction as well.

Kearney and Levine said their study included analyzing Nielsen ratings data, metrics from Google and Twitter and Vital Statistics Natality microdata.

“Kearney and Levine show that 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have a large and highly engaged following, win ratings wars, and lead teens to search for and tweet about the themes within,” the release said.

“They also find that searches and tweets about birth control and abortion spike exactly when the show is on and in locations where it is more popular,” the release added.

The researchers said MTV’s ability to make such influential shows could be useful.

“This approach has the potential to yield large results with important social consequences,” Kearney and Levine said. “Typically, the public concern addresses potential negative influences of media exposure, but this study finds it may have positive influences as well.”

MTV president Stephen Friedman said the network is “incredibly heartened” by the study’s findings.

"When we developed '16 and Pregnant,' teen birth rates were reported to be on the rise, so we created this series as a cautionary tale on the hard realities of teen pregnancy,” he said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy for their expert guidance. We've always believed that storytelling can be a powerful catalyst for change.”

Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, praised the MTV shows for their apparent role in reducing teen births and pregnancy.

“The entertainment media can be, and often is, a force for good,” she said in a statement. “One of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades has been the historic declines in teen pregnancy. MTV and other media outlets have undoubtedly increased attention to the risks and reality of teen pregnancy and parenthood and, as this research shows, have likely played a role in the nation’s remarkable progress.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Younger voters slip away from Obama amid health care missteps, spying disclosures, gridlock

January 12, 2014 09:54 AM

An electric atmosphere took over the University of New Hampshire last Election Day. Students covered sidewalks with messages in chalk, urging students to vote — and to vote for President Obama. Buses and minivans circled campus, shuttling students to the polls.

The efforts paid off: Obama carried Durham, N.H., by a two-to-one vote, on his way to winning the crucial swing state.

A little more than a year later, the mood has changed — alarmingly, for Democratic Party leaders — in a shift that also is reflected in national polls. Students are increasingly turned off by politics, and by the Democratic Party. Even those who were enthusiastic about Obama say they are jaded by gridlock in Washington, disillusioned by a president they thought would be transformational.

“The public has seen that it wasn’t magic,” said Tyler Gullbrand, president of the UNH College Democrats.

Globe subscribers can read the entire story here.

Many Boston colleges, universities close early Thursday, will stay closed Friday due to snowstorm

January 2, 2014 03:24 PM

Many Boston-area college and university campuses closed early today and will remain closed Friday because of a significant storm that is expected to drop more than a foot of snow locally.

But it may not feel like a true snow day because most students and professors are still on winter break.

The list of schools that have already shut down most, if not all, operations or plan to do so by 3 p.m. includes: Babson College, Bentley University, Berklee College of Music, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Emerson College, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Simmons College, Suffolk University, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, UMass Boston, and UMass Lowell, according to the respective websites of the institutions.

Babson, Bentley, Berklee, BC, BU, Brandeis, Emerson, Harvard, Northeastern, Tufts, UMass Boston, and UMass Lowell also announced they will remain closed tomorrow.

Simmons, Suffolk and UMass Amherst have not announced if their campuses will be closed or open Friday.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Former EPA head Carol Browner to discuss 'Politics of Climate Change' at Wellesley College's Albright Institute

December 31, 2013 12:54 PM

Former EPA head Carol Browner will discuss “The Politics of Climate Change” at Wellesley College next month as part of the school’s fifth annual Albright Institute winter session led by alumna and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, campus officials announced.

Browner is scheduled to give her talk on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 4 p.m., the college said. The event will be free, open to the public and live streamed online here.

Browner also worked in the Obama administration from 2009-2011 as director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.

Before that she worked as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration from 1993 to 2001, the same years Albright worked as US Ambassador to the UN and Secretary of State.

Albright and a number of academics, policymakers, business executives and other leaders will lead the annual program’s winter session this year, which runs from Jan. 6 to 24.

Forty Wellesley students, or Albright Fellows, have been picked for the program to spend their winter break “learning the ropes on how to change the world,” the college said in a statement.

“Albright Fellows learn from the expertise and perspectives of faculty and thought leaders who represent a wide variety of fields including science, engineering, sociology, political science, arts and literature, and economics,” the college said.

This year’s syllabus includes “Why Women’s Leadership is the Cause of Our Times;” “The Olympic Movement: Women's Sports Participation and its Global Impact;” “Bombs Away: Cluster Munitions, Killer Robots, and Humanitarian Disarmament;” and “Why Good People Do Bad Environmental Things.”

Toward the end of the intensive, three-week program, the fellows team up to propose “innovative solutions to world problems” and will present their work to Browner, the program’s distinguished visiting professor this year, for critique and analysis.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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