A University of Minnesota student who says she repeatedly endured sexual assault and harassment while studying abroad is publicly criticizing the response of the university’s study abroad office. The controversy once again raises questions about the tricky business of dealing with alleged harassment that occurs abroad, at a time that international study continues to grow.
Rachel Jamison, a fifth-year student at Minnesota, has detailed the assault and harassment she reportedly experienced while studying at Tanzania’s University of Dar es Salaam in a 12-page, single-spaced report that relates terrifying tale after terrifying tale of aggressive advances and assaults on the streets of the country’s largest city.
But it was the effect of the harassment on her academics that led her to finally seek help from home: the man who controlled her ability to register for classes allegedly refused to allow her to register until she agreed to a “date” (meaning in this context, Jamison says, sex); her 30-page handwritten research papers were stolen from a department office by a fellow student who she says demanded sex in exchange for their return; and a man at the office for foreign students, her in-country resource office, made her uncomfortable with his alleged inquiries about her sexual habits.
“What happened is that in January I realized that not only was I not able to register for classes but that I was not going to have any grades since my papers were stolen. At this point,” says Jamison, who returned to Minnesota last week, midway through what was supposed to be a scholarship-supported academic year in Tanzania, “I started to try to get help from the University of Minnesota.” The failure of the Learning Abroad Center to act once she said harassment was occurring was, she says, contrary to the university’s sexual harassment policy.