LETTER: Initiatives in place to create safer campus

Angela Batista

Dear Editor,

In response to the editorial published in the February 12 edition of The Shield, I would like to offer some important facts and information with the hope of shedding some light on the seriousness that the University places on sexual assault and any type of sexual misconduct, as well as recent steps that have been taken to educate students, faculty and staff, and to help prevent and report incidents of sexual assault and misconduct.

While in your article you referenced a case from 1988, things have changed a lot since then, both at USI and in the landscape of higher education. Federal mandates for colleges and universities to respond to these types of incidents and other related Title IX cases, including stalking and assault, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and sexual exploitation, continue to change dramatically and to drive efforts to combat them across the nation and at USI. The goal of all of these initiatives is to create a safer campus, foster a culture of openness and accountability, and promote a healthy conversation about these issues.

It is always important to remember that specific details about individual incidents, and/or those involved, may not be reported or discussed publicly by the University because of student privacy laws afforded under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). However, statistics on all crimes at USI, as well as on-campus and off-campus resources are available on the websites for USI Public Safety and the Dean of Students.

Recent initiatives undertaken by the University include:

  • Spring 2012: Bystander Intervention Training for all Greek Life groups.
  • August 2012: Information about Title IX and sexual misconduct policies and resources were shared with incoming residential students through Eagle Experience as it was also in 2013, and 2014.
  • September 2012: The Dean of Students restructured the previously existing Sexual Abuse Task Force into the new Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Prevention Group, made of members, including administrators, faculty, staff and students.
  • Summer 2013: A new Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Prevention brochure was published by the Dean of Students in collaboration with Student Wellness and distributed across campus departments to be provided to students who report sexual misconduct related incidents. This brochure is currently posted on both the Dean of Students and the Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Prevention Group websites.
  • August 2013: The Dean of Students implemented a new University CARE Team initiative with a strong focus on prevention and education on student wellness and safety related issues.
  • October 2013: The University sent six administrators to a national Title IX Training School and Certification Course in Omaha, Nebraska, including the dean of students, assistant dean of students, director of housing and residence life, assistant director of housing and residence life for student conduct, assistant director of public safety, and manager of employment.
  • January 2014: The University hosted a four-hour Title IX training session for all hearing officers, investigators, members of the University CARE Team and other high-level administrators in Academic and Student Affairs.
  • Summer 2014: Title IX Update and Compliance Training was provided to University administrators staff, including members of the Provost’s Council, the University CARE Team, Student Affairs, and various other administrative departments.
  • Summer 2014: The Dean of Students Office published a new Student Handbook that details newly revise University policies and procedures, resources, referrals, and grievance and complaints processes for all students.
  • Fall 2014: The Dean of Students developed and publicized a Title IX Basics resource detailing the University’s Title IX response efforts and presented to the Provost Council, Student Affairs, the Council of Chairs, Faculty and Administrative Senates, all Athletic and coaching staff, Housing and Residence Life Staff, including resident assistants, academic departments and various others on-campus groups. This information about the University’s Title IX Response Program is currently posted on both the Dean of Students and the Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Prevention Group websites.
  • January 2015: USI signed a contract with a national company to provide a Title IX training program for students, faculty and staff. Training for students will be launched as soon as the program can be customized later, with faculty training to follow in summer 2015.
  • January 2015: The Sexual Assault and Gender Violence Prevention committee partnered with Albion Fellows Bacon Center to kick off the “No More Campaign” at the Men’s Basketball game. Later this semester, the University will host various campus-wide speakers and a “No More” partnership is being established with the Interfraternity Council (IFC) to host a week of events highlighting Title IX issues.

In addition, the University has hosted speakers to facilitate a healthy conversation on campus. In fall 2014, the University hosted “Speak About it – Consent and Bystander Intervention” and, in spring 2015 USI will sponsor, “Speak About it – Sexual Assault and Bystander Intervention.”  Additional resources for student, faculty and staff training are currently be evaluated and the Dean of Students is working with Public Safety to outline a new “Sexual Assault Response Protocol” to be published later this year.

In closing, I would like to say that I agree that more conversation and awareness about these issues is needed, and, as illustrated above, it is our goal to always be a part of that conversation. I hope that all members of the University community will become actively engaged and participate in our ongoing efforts and programs.

Dr. Angela E. Batista

Dean of Students