- Associated Press - Friday, April 29, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Emma Watson, the British actress who plays Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series, on Friday denied reports that she was bullied out of Brown University _ an assertion backed up by fellow students who said that, if anything, she was shielded from being singled out.

“The reason I took a semester off from Brown had nothing to do with bullying,” Watson wrote on her website. “I have never been bullied in my life and certainly never at Brown.”

Watson said she is not sure what her plans are for the fall semester, the beginning of her third year. Like many of her “fellow Brown students,” she wrote, she is considering studying abroad.

Brown has not commented on media reports this month citing an anonymous Brown “insider” who claimed Watson was bullied out of school.

A New York Daily News article posted online April 21 claimed that when Watson responded correctly to questions in class, her classmates would shout, “Three points for Gryffindor!” _ a reference to the “Harry Potter” films, in which students’ dormitory houses are awarded points for questions they answer correctly. Watson’s character lives in Gryffindor.

“This ‘10 points to Gryffindor’ incident never even happened,” wrote Watson, who has denied that rumor before. “Accusing Brown students of something as serious as bullying and this causing me to leave seems beyond unfair.”

The rumor that a student had once exclaimed “10 points for Gryffindor” after Watson answered a question correctly became widespread on campus in spring 2010, the semester during which it was alleged to have happened, according to several current and recent Brown students interviewed by The Associated Press.

But, they said, it was viewed as part of Brown folklore, and students were, if anything, protective of Watson.

“We try to take care of our own at Brown, and I think we try to make sure she feels like anybody else,” said Megan Estes, a Brown junior who said she doesn’t know Watson but worked on the production of a campus theater production in which the “Harry Potter” star acted.

Apart from the Gryffindor comment, there was little sense on campus that Brown students heckled or antagonized Watson, said Estes and other students.

In class, students were respectful of Watson, said Bianca Dahl, a visiting professor who teaches a course on global humanitarian aid that Watson attended briefly at the start of the spring 2010 semester.

“There was an awareness of her, but in a protective way,” Dahl said. “I can’t fathom that faculty or students would allow bullying to happen.”

Some students went so far as to approach Dahl to caution her that the actress was taking the course after she made reference in lectures to the “Harry Potter” books and to a humanitarian fashion line created by U2 singer Bono, she said. Watson is involved with a similar fashion line.

Allison Zimmer, who graduated last year and was an editor on the Brown campus newspaper’s weekly culture magazine during Watson’s freshman year, said she often encountered Watson with friends at Brown’s dining hall, its bookstore and other normal campus locations.

“At the beginning there was a little bit of an aura around her. People would say, ‘Oh, I just had my first Emma Watson spotting.’ But that faded after the first few weeks,” Zimmer said. “It was almost uncool to mention it.”

The newspaper consciously decided to cover Watson as a normal student and not to give her presence extra attention, Zimmer and other current and former editors at the newspaper said.

Watson’s comments Friday come a week after Vanessa Davies, her spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that the actress would transfer to another university in the fall because she “has decided to pursue a different course which sadly Brown does not offer.”

Still, it’s “possible and likely she may return to Brown in her final year,” Davies told the AP.

Davies did not identify the university to which Watson will be transferring, but said it was “affiliated to Brown.” She did not elaborate on what that might mean.

Brown declined to comment on Watson’s plans.

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