U-Va. gets serious on relationship violence

Tuesday, August 17, 2010; A14

IT TOOK the death of lacrosse player Yeardley Love to galvanize the University of Virginia to address the critical problem of relationship violence on campus. Now the university is taking steps to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. It deserves recognition and praise for reacting quickly and substantively.

The university strengthened its security policy this month to require students to disclose any arrests or convictions since enrolling. The change is crucial. University officials have said that George Huguely, Ms. Love's former boyfriend, who has been charged with her murder, would likely have been suspended and possibly expelled had they known about his arrest his junior year following an intoxicated confrontation with a police officer. Although the university has technically required students to report brushes with the law since 2004, the changes will require that they answer questions about arrest records before obtaining access to the campus computer system each fall.

Laudably, the university is not stopping there. Its student government plans to reach out to all other Virginia colleges to make certain that administrators are informed when a student from one college is arrested at another. Also in the works is a program to educate students about assisting peers in threatening circumstances and about the dangers of passivity among bystanders. Colleges and universities elsewhere in the state -- and, for that matter, nationwide -- would be wise to join Virginia's intercollegiate system and implement similar programs to prevent relationship violence.

Relationship violence remains a largely untouched subject, apart from at a few schools, most notably the University of New Hampshire, where sexual assault awareness has become a major campus issue. The University of Virginia has worked to create positive change from tragedy. Other institutions should follow its lead.

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