Thursday, January 18, 2018

Campus Safety, Advocacy, and a Department of Justice Grant

Campus Safety, Advocacy, and a Department of Justice Grant

In the past few months, the news has been rife with stories exposing numerous high-profile sexual predators. In higher education, the Jaeger case at the University of Rochester has been a particularly cautionary example of the dangers of complacency.

The benefit of the media coverage is that it has cultivated courage among more and more victims to speak up and ultimately bring an end to the predations of those who have victimized them. More importantly, recent events have provoked important public conversations that strive to eliminate tolerance for these unethical behaviors, which should lead to safer and more respectful professional environments.

The increased attention is new, sadly, the problem is not. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace reported that, “Almost fully one third of the approximately 90,000 charges received by EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment.”

This is an area where higher education has made important, although not always successful efforts. Following the “Dear Colleague” letter of 2011, our institutions implemented much more sophisticated Title IX procedures aimed not only at responding to complaints of sexual harassment and assault, but through expanded reporting requirements that revealed patterns of malicious behavior, our institutions greatly improved their prevention efforts.

Many of higher education’s most egregious cases of harassment and abuse have been brought to light through these more stringent processes, and had these protections been implemented earlier, many individuals would have been spared victimization.

Earlier this year, the White House rescinded the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, but Susquehanna and many other colleges and universities have committed to hold themselves to a higher standard than this recent change requires. The safety of our students and employees cannot be compromised.

It is my hope that all institutions of higher education will continue to embrace this rigor of protection for the members of their communities. Ideally, all employers will uphold these same standards so our graduates will enter similarly responsible and responsive work places.

In an ongoing effort to bolster our own efforts on campus, we have secured a Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women Grant. This grant supports a three-year implementation of expanded education for all incoming students, the creation of a coördinated community response system between the University and external organizations, enhanced training of our campus safety officers, and training for campus disciplinary boards to respond most effectively to situations involving sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.

This is a very competitive grant. We are grateful for this support from the DOJ, which will enable us to better prepare our students to exercise their citizen leadership as ethical and practical advocates of best practice in their workplaces and communities.


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