Changing climate of assaults

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President Stan Albrecht taking steps to address USU better prevent and respond to sexual violence
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 6:05pm

Utah State University in Logan and USU Eastern in Price made news in recent years with how the sexual assault allegations were handled on campuses.

The Logan campus is examining and potentially revising the sexual assault complaint and investigative processes, as well as develop a campus climate survey to gauge students’ attitudes and understanding of sexual assault.

This will be submitted to the Sexual Violence Task Force, headed by Executive Vice President and Provost Noelle Cockett.

According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, school officials are working on changes to the student code related to confidentiality as well as clarifying mandatory reporting and anonymous reporting policies. USU and USU Eastern is working on a campus education campaign about consent.

President Stan Albrecht sent an email to all employees of USU last week clarifying the school’s stance.

We are continuing our efforts to create for our university a model program for addressing sexual violence—both in terms of a comprehensive educational plan for our campus, and in the development of policies and procedures for addressing any issues that occur in a victim-focused caring, sensitive and professional manner. I would like to give you a quick update on recent actions taken, and additional plans going forward. 

 With the help and input from many members of our faculty, staff and student community, we are taking significant steps that will address recommendations that I shared with you earlier on how Utah State University can better prevent and respond to sexual violence. Let me address some of the important actions taken:

 First, I am announcing today the official formation and leadership of a number of committees and working groups to improve USU’s efforts to prevent sexual violence. These new groups are: (1) a Sexual Violence Task Force; (2) three “Working Groups” to investigate the current situation and suggest steps forward; and (3) an “Implementation and Coordinating” Committee. I want to give you details about the new committees first, but please do read further down to see a list that reflects some of the work we’ve already done to address the recommendations from the inquiry.

 The Sexual Violence Task Force will establish an overarching strategic plan to address and prevent sexual violence in our campus community. It will receive recommendations from and provide guidance to the Working Groups to advance systemic changes and overall improvements to the university’s efforts. This task force will be led by Noelle Cockett, Executive Vice President and Provost.

 The Prevention, Education and Training Working Group will develop and ensure implementation of sexual violence prevention efforts, including bystander training, student education and other training and outreach efforts. This Working Group will be chaired by Professor Mike Twohig, associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

 The Policy and Process Working Group will be responsible for revising complaint and investigation processes and drafting or continually updating university policies and codes that reflect current national best practices. The Working Group will be chaired by University Counsel Mica McKinney.

 The Campus Climate and Survey Working Group will develop an ongoing campus climate survey and other efforts to assess campus attitudes and knowledge of issues related to sexual assault. It will be chaired by Michael Torrens, director of USU’s Office of Analysis, Assessment and Accreditation.

 The Implementation and Coordinating Committee is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of Title IX policies, education and training, prevention, compliance efforts, and all communications regarding these efforts. This committee will report directly to Provost Cockett.

 All of the Working Groups and the overarching Sexual Violence Task Force will be comprised of both subject-matter experts with expertise specific to assigned working group as well as a diverse mix of individual representatives from across our campus-constituent groups.

 Other highlights of recent steps we’ve taken to address the issue of sexual violence:

 1.       Many of us in administration have met with and are continuing to meet with campus constituent groups to brief them about steps we are taking. We have met with the Faculty Senate. We had a productive meeting with all the department heads. We have also had face-to-face meetings with various members of our faculty and staff and our students. We will continue to get feedback from across campus.

 2.       USU made some immediate changes to housing personnel training materials about required reporting for Responsible Employees, including an easier-to-understand “checklist.” After receiving great feedback, we continue to work on staff training materials, including training materials for faculty, about things such as their role as responsible employees and information faculty can use to assist and support a student if the student discloses incidents of sexual violence.

 3.       Another thing USU has already put in place is an online reporting system with a centralized database. The Maxient software system is up and running, and we are developing training protocols for using the software. The Maxient system makes online reporting much more efficient and allows for better communication across various offices that deal with this issue.

 4.       We are in the third week now of a comprehensive “Consent Is …” campaign. Part of Red Zone activities, this 10-week campaign, is designed to educate students about the concept of consent for sexual activity. You will see posters, bus advertisements, social media posts, electronic signage in buildings, and media coverage as part of our efforts to get this information out.

 5.       We are in the process of developing details of an agreement with local law enforcement about how and when we can share information. The effort will also include other local support groups such as CAPSA. We do work with these groups already, but we’re working on improving communications.

 6.       I hope you are aware of or attended the presentation by the speaker we brought to campus this week. National renowned expert Elaine Pasqua was on campus for two days meeting with students and student-athletes about sexual assault, the meaning of consent and respectful relationships.

 7.       We also are in the process of codifying some existing practices into permanent policies in the Student Code. These important policies, including a confidentiality policy and our amnesty policy, will go to our Board of Trustees later this month.

Sexual violence is an extremely important issue to all of us at USU, and it’s something we are addressing head on. We care deeply about the health and safety of our students. There still is much work to be done, and we will continue to work hard on these efforts. If you have additional suggestions or recommendations, please feel free to contact my office.

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