Here are some things college and university officials are saying about efforts to prevent sexual violence and help those who report it. Dozens of current and recent students who participated in a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll on sexual assault spoke with Post reporters about their experiences in college with unwanted sexual incidents. The students said they attended these schools, among others. What is listed here is only a sampling of initiatives and comments and is not meant to be comprehensive. (This file will be updated.)
Gail Short Hanson, vice president of campus life, said in a statement:
“We want all students to know about available support, to feel comfortable seeking help, and to understand how to report. We have made progress in ensuring that students know where to go to report and get help. In our recent campus climate survey, 92 percent of undergraduates indicated they strongly agreed or agreed that ‘If a friend or I were sexually assaulted, I would know where to go to get help.’ We’ve substantially invested in additional education, prevention and response, and are committed to assisting victims through the reporting process and in their recovery.”
Beloit College (Wis.)
Kristina Erickson, a recent Beloit graduate, and her mother, Maureen Powers, also an alumna, say they were both sexually assaulted during their time as students, a generation apart. Erickson lamented what she called an enduring “rape culture on our campus.”
Asked to respond, Beloit President Scott Bierman wrote in an e-mail: “This brave young woman is right. There is a culture that breeds sexual violence and shames victims into silence—and it exists on and beyond our campus. For our part, we combat it by actively educating our students about their safety and their obligation to others, creating and communicating ways to report this activity, and doing our very best to make this campus as safe and effective as possible for all of our students.
“Kristina’s testimony proves we’ve not prevailed in our work to put an end to such experiences. Our commitment to her, her mother, and our future students is that we do succeed.”
Beloit officials added that they aspire to have the “safest and healthiest campus in America.”
“As a part of this effort,” said dean of students Christina P. Klawitter, “we have several recent graduates completing projects around sexual misconduct and prevention and last fall a task force worked to enhance and expand our efforts.”
Among them: making the campus’s confidential resources more visible and being more explicit about the support services available to victims; requiring new students to watch videos about sexual assault and its prevention, and meeting in small groups during orientation to discuss what they learned; coordinating meetings for our male students to discuss their role in prevention and support; and annually reviewing our policies, procedures and education efforts in an attempt to increase reporting and make clear the college’s expectations for consent and sexual contact.
Eastern Michigan University
A spokesman said in an e-mail:
“Eastern Michigan University is strongly committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault.
“The University understands that a vital part of that support is to allow the survivor to feel control over the situation. To that end, if he or she chooses not to use an available resource or report the offense to the police or the student conduct office, then the University will respect that decision and will not take this control away from the survivor. The University will continue to offer assistance and resources to strongly support the student or staff member.
“If a student elects not to pursue a case, complaint, or further investigation, the University’s ability to respond to or further determine any crime or disciplinary action may be very limited.
“The University deeply understands that persons in need of help are often reluctant to seek assistance and avail themselves of the many resources available. The University actively works with survivors over a period of time to address their concerns and encourages them to come forward. In some cases, survivors come forward months or years after the fact to report an incident.”
Kalamazoo College (Mich.)
Kalamazoo College, echoing others, said students hear about sexual assault prevention efforts and reporting procedures as soon as they arrive on campus.
“We try to be really clear with students,” said Sarah Westfall, Kalamazoo’s vice president for student development and dean of students. “This kind of stuff happens here. We know it happens. We know that it’s under-reported.”
On a crucial issue — whether two people have agreed to sex — Westfall said the college delivers a clear message: “Consent means an enthusiastic, affirmative yes. Anything else is not consent. We try to make this gooey, murky state of social dynamics as clear as we can.” She conceded that’s a challenge. “These are young people. They often are inexperienced sexual decision-makers,” she said. “Often alcohol or other drugs are involved, which can complicate it.”
Sexual assault is both a crime and, at colleges across America, a violation of student conduct rules. But Westfall said she is always mindful that many who experience unwanted sexual contact do not report it. She worries about them. “These are the kind of wounds that people can carry with them forever,” she said. “The insidious after-effects are deeply problematic. That’s what I care about.”
Kent State University
University president Beverly J. Warren said in a statement:
“The safety and well-being of our students is an absolute priority at Kent State. We are dedicated to a campus community where ensuring a safe and welcoming environment is the responsibility of everyone. Our university and community support services stand ready to assist any student or staff member who has experienced sexual assault. Sexual assault cannot be tolerated, and we remain strongly committed to the cultivation of strong awareness, prevention and response programs and to ensure that resources are available to all who need assistance.”
Kent State said its Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services provides response support, university-wide awareness and prevention education related to sexual violence, stalking, and other issues.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cynthia Barnhart, the MIT chancellor, said in an April 17 email to the campus community that the school is taking a range of actions to address problems related to unwanted sexual behavior that emerged from a student survey. She asked for input on proposals to improve the discipline process for sexual misconduct cases. And she highlighted progress in other efforts:
“We have greatly increased the visibility of sexual assault as a campus issue, encouraged students to discuss it and given them venues to do so, from the conference we sponsored in February to the many film screenings, plays and other April events of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“We are developing an educational campaign to help correct misconceptions students may hold about sexual assault and consent, and we have improved the training we provide for students on bystander intervention, campus resources and reporting options. We have increased the number of students who are educated on these subjects, and greatly increased the number of people, especially men, who feel responsible to help prevent sexual assault and misconduct.
“We have targeted education for groups, such as graduate students, that might not be getting enough information about campus resources, and we launched trainings tailored for undergraduate students beyond the freshman year. We have also identified and will reach out to groups that need a special focus, from the LGBTQ community to the FSILGs. And we have enhanced “party-safe” training in our dorms and FSILGs to include a section on preventing sexual assault.
“We have increased support for students who have experienced sexual assault, adding four staff members in Violence Prevention and Response and creating a new Title IX Office with two new staff. We have created a Sexual Assault Response Team to coordinate the efforts of the Division of Student Life, MIT Medical, MIT Police and the Title IX Office. And in what we believe is a positive sign, we have seen an increase in students who have come forward to report their experiences with unwanted sexual behavior. “
Northern Arizona University
Cynthia Anderson, dean of students, said in a statement:
“Sexual assault is one of the most vexing issues on college campuses across the country. The association with alcohol use cannot be overstated, nor can the need to involve bystanders. Education has been the most effective tool in prevention of sexual assaults. One aspect of the prevention and educational programs we’ve required all new students to participate in is a web-based prevention program that includes intervening when a friend is in a potentially risky situation or environment.
“When sexual assaults occur, we assist victims by drawing on resources across campus and in the community, including counseling and support services. All sexual assaults are thoroughly investigated by the university, and all cases are reported to the NAU Police Department when the victim agrees to do so.”
Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.)
Like their peers elsewhere, university officials are urging all students who experience a sexual assault or any other unwanted sexual incident to step forward and tell them about it.
“You can’t do something about it if they don’t come forward,” said John Downey, dean of students at Queens. He said students these days at the North Carolina school are “certainly more aware” of sexual violence than ever before. “There’s definitely reporting,” he said, “but in my opinion not enough. I know that sounds weird coming from a dean of students. … But I want to know.”
Northern Illinois University
A spokesman said in an e-mail:
“NIU is committed to increasing awareness of the national issue of sexual assault while enhancing our approach to campus safety. We continue to strengthen programs for reporting and response to sexual assault that include confidential advocacy, referral and support to NIU students affected by sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking while significantly expanding prevention and education efforts and strengthening community partnerships.”
Scripps College (Calif.)
Scripps, a women’s college, is part of the Claremont consortium, which includes the undergraduate colleges Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Claremont McKenna and Pitzer. This fall, a Scripps official said, the consortium plans to open a joint resource center for students who report sexual violence.
“We’re motivated by care and compassion for students,” said Charlotte Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Scripps. “I can say with great confidence that Scripps is a place where we go beyond the baseline in terms of the standard of care.”
Johnson said Scripps already has numerous initiatives, including student orientation training, peer mentors and a student-run hotline. “We find that sometimes students want to talk to other students anonymously,” she said.
Johnson said incident reporting appears to be on the rise. “The campaign to create this culture of reporting, and creating a climate that is supportive, has honestly given students more confidence to come forward,” she said.
But she added that colleges everywhere still face significant challenges with sexual assault. “I don’t want to be too sanguine,” Johnson said. “This is a complex issue. None of us has cracked it for certain. But we’re doing a lot.”
Savannah State University (Ga.)
This school is part of the University System of Georgia, which just launched a statewide safety initiative developed through a committee that oversees that issue. The initiative will centralize the implementation and oversight of campus safety policies, procedures and requirements and mandate system-led training on sexual violence for faculty, staff and students. There also will be a system-wide campus climate survey, to gauge student experiences, at least every two years.
“Campus safety is a responsibility that the University System of Georgia takes very seriously,” Board of Regents Chairman Neil Pruitt said in a statement. “Our rigorous implementation of the committee’s recommendations over a clear timeline will improve and strengthen campus safety efforts across our 30 institutions.”
“We are about educating students and increasing the number of Georgians who have completed college. To continue to do this, we must provide our students, faculty and staff a safe environment, and we will apply best practices at each campus,” system Chancellor Hank Huckaby said. “This is a fundamental change in the way we have been operating across our system of institutions.”
Southwestern College (Kan.)
The school released a statement: “Southwestern College has a firm commitment to the well-being of all of our students, and a special commitment to prevent sexual violence on our campus,” said Lonnie Boyd, director of human resources and Title IX coordinator for the college. “As a small college, we strive to work with all of our students in a supportive and compassionate manner.”
Towson University (Md.)
School officials said in a statement:
“Addressing the issue of sexual assault is a serious matter at Towson University and it starts on day one. During New Student Orientation, sexual assault themes are addressed by way of performances of the Social Action Theatre Group to all incoming first-year students. Student actors illustrate typical party scenes at which sexual assault may occur. Staff facilitators discuss bystander intervention strategies and other ways to prevent sexual misconduct. Student evaluations indicate that 70 percent of student survey respondents ‘learned something new about what constitutes sexual assault.’ All first-year students must also complete Haven, an online interactive education program on sexual assault and relationship violence.
“We also offer programs throughout the year that concentrate on the issue of consent. Consent is Sexy, Can I Kiss You? and TigerSex Trivia all promote campus-wide conversations. Other programs include Healthy Relationships programming and the Love IS Respect Campaign that is designed to raise awareness of healthy dating behaviors. Additionally, more than 300 students, faculty, and staff have taken the White House It’s On Us pledge. TU students produced two videos addressing the It’s on Us campaign. …
“At Towson University administrators believe that the increased emphasis on education may equip students with a better understanding of what sexual misconduct is, and allow those who would not have reached out for help in the past to now be more likely to report.”
University of Central Florida
The university said all incoming students are required to complete a sexual assault prevention lesson online. It explains options for prevention and intervention. If students don’t finish the lesson by a date certain they will be ineligible to register for classes the following semester.
Officials said in a statement: “Our goal as a university is to educate victims about their options and help them move forward in whichever way is best for them. Some embrace the support of our university victim advocates, and others choose to report incidents to student conduct or campus police. Some students elect all of the above, and others choose none.”
University of Alabama at Birmingham
A spokesman said in an e-mail:
“Our focus is on sexual assault prevention – specifically bystander education, intervention strategies, reporting options and resources. It is important that every university does a great deal to build awareness, education, safety and counseling regarding sexual assault, and UAB students, faculty, staff, UAB Police Department, and community partners work together on initiatives.”
The spokesman also pointed to a 2012 federal grant to UAB and other colleges in the area to develop strategies to combat sexual assault. Among the goals were coordinating community response; strengthening victim services; engaging men as partners in violence prevention; bolstering security and investigative strategies; and establishing training programs.
University of Cincinnati
The university is strengthening partnerships between student misconduct investigators and campus police, said Jyl Shaffer, a school official who coordinates compliance with the civil rights law called Title IX. The police force hired a victim service coordinator experienced with sexual violence issues. It also has a special investigative unit dedicated to the area.
Coordination with police is crucial, Shaffer said, to ensure that student misconduct investigations do not interfere with potential criminal cases.
Shaffer, new in her position since last fall, said she has participated in dozens of campus events to spread the message to students about the importance of reporting and preventing sexual violence. There was a “healthy relationship week” around Valentine’s Day, she said. “Our goal is for people to have positive experiences,” she said.
Shaffer said the school also has expanded counseling services. “We’re starting to see more people reporting” sexual violence, she said. “More people are coming forward with incidents that happened to them six months or a year ago.”
One priority, she said, is outreach to the LGBTQ community about sexual violence. “We know we need to do a lot more so that they trust us,” she said. “That’s been a big part of our work this year.”
University of Connecticut
At the University of Connecticut, officials have created a new position: assistant dean of students for victim support services.
“A large part of her portfolio is supporting victims of crime, including sexual violence,” said Elizabeth Conklin, U-Conn.’s associate vice president for diversity and equity. “It allows our students to have one really critical point of contact for support on the university side that can help triage with them what the next steps are, and listen to them about what their needs are.”
Conklin, whose office oversees investigations of sexual violence, said there has been a significant increase in the past two years in reports of incidents. “That’s great,” she said. “It means people feel comfortable coming forward and feel like they will be supported and heard.”
University of La Verne (Calif.)
Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs, said in a statement:
“At the University of La Verne, we actively work to prevent sexual assaults on our campus by making the topic part of an open dialogue with our students, faculty and staff. Federal and state-mandated prevention trainings, bystander programs and workshops do not just take place at the beginning of the school year or during freshmen orientation.
“The conversation is kept alive throughout the year because we know we need to reinforce and repeat it in order to reduce sexual assault incidents on campus. We have workshops within our residence halls with topics discussing dating violence or sexual assault prevention. …
“Silence will not reduce sexual assault. Campus communities need to work together to make certain all students are safe at our universities and colleges. We also need to ensure that every victim knows there are people and resources available to help them. If we do this and one fewer sexual assault takes place or one victim feels empowered to come forward, then we are doing our jobs. Every leader in higher education should want to be a part of this continued dialogue.”
University of Mary (N.D.)
The university said in a statement:
“The University of Mary is strongly committed to maintaining an environment in which all students, staff and faculty are treated with dignity and respect, in accordance with Standard 21 of our Student Handbook, which is provided to all students and available to the entire campus community:
“Relationship violence is a dangerous form of violence prevalent within the college student population and will not be tolerated at the University of Mary. Often the victims of relationship violence find it difficult to ask for help and they may blame themselves for the abuse. No one deserves to be abused for any reason and all persons who are abused deserve help and support. The University of Mary will assist any student at the University who is been the target of violence, threats of violence or abuse of any kind whether it has taken place on or off-campus or been perpetrated by another student or someone else. Students who need assistance as well as friends of students who need assistance are urged to contact either the director of student life or the student counselor for assistance. In response, these university employees will assist the student in need with reporting violence or abuse to law enforcement officials if desired; they will assist with the process of obtaining a protection order; and they will assist the student in accessing the services of the Abused Adult Resource Center.
“We are appalled by what reportedly happened to one of our former students off campus and pray for her healing. If this incident was reported to us, we trust that our established process was followed. To be clear, when any incident of relational violence is reported—whether it occurred on or off campus and whether the event was perpetrated by another student or someone else—we immediately report all information to the police and cooperate completely in any investigation. Additionally, during every academic year the University of Mary runs a comprehensive on-campus campaign to raise awareness about relationship violence and to inform students about what to do if such incidents occur.”
University of Michigan
The university is participating this year in a “campus climate survey” with more than two dozen other members of the Association of American Universities. A significant and highly unusual national project, the survey aims to gauge student experiences with sexual violence and other safety concerns, with a goal of bolstering prevention efforts at those schools.
A university publication in April reported on the issue. Here is an excerpt:
“I feel personally responsible for all the members of our community,” says President Mark Schlissel. “And a big part of that is a feeling of responsibility for their safety in all senses, particularly in the instance of sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
Addressing campus sexual misconduct is a growing national issue, and one in which the university has a nearly 30-year history of providing support and resources to those impacted in the U-M community.
“The vast majority of people on this campus know survivors. They may not know they know survivors. They have people that they are working with that have experienced these issues that have influenced their lives in dramatic and pervasive ways,” says Richard Tolman, professor in the School of Social Work, and researcher of sexual and intimate partner violence.
University of Nebraska Omaha
Officials said they are expanding outreach and educational programs on topics like sexual consent, bystander intervention and incident reporting. Web sites with information for survivors — which at some schools are hard to find and loaded with complex jargon — have been simplified and overhauled.
Officials also emphasized that faculty and staff are getting trained too.
“We have no desire to kick the can down the road, and every desire to get this right for our students and our campus community,” said Daniel Shipp, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at Nebraska-Omaha.
University of New Mexico
Officials call their initiative “LoboRESPECT.” They say they are mobilizing the campus community with education programs, including required sessions for new student orientation, athletics and Greek organizations, as well as peer-to-peer counseling. There’s a student-produced video on YouTube called “Protect the Pack”.
Officials highlight a new “first stop” center that will debut in the fall semester. The LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center will be open to anyone who wants guidance on reporting, referrals to support services or help understanding options.
“No matter how much information is available, unfortunately many busy students just don’t absorb it until something happens. It is kind of like the emergency exit info on the back of your hotel door. You don’t really pay attention to it until it’s necessary,” said Tomás Aguirre, UNM’s dean of students. “Having a specific place to go where information is readily available when a student actually needs it should work much better.”
UNM officials said reported cases of sexual violence, harassment and misconduct are on the rise.
“These numbers represent not an increase in sexual misconduct on our campus but an increase in trust from the campus community and in our ability to respond effectively,” said Heather Cowan, a university investigator.
University of North Carolina-Wilmington
Rebecca Caldwell, director of substance abuse and violence prevention at UNC-Wilmington, said the school seeks to ensure students always feel comfortable reporting any kind of unwanted sexual incident.
“I can hear young women trying to make sense of what happened,” she said. “Sometimes labels like ‘sexual assault’ are a barrier to trying to get someone in the door.”
Caldwell said the school immerses incoming students in training on sexual assault, stalking and dating violence, consent, bystander intervention and more. Students also hear from the local prosecutor and from the dean of students.
“We add more every year,” she said.
University of the Pacific
The university said in a statement: “Sexual assault on college campuses represents a public health crisis, affecting an estimated one in five women and one in 16 men. Here are examples of efforts we are taking to prevent sexual assault and to ensure that, if it does happen, victims feel safe seeking help and can trust that their complaints will be handled fairly, respectfully and compassionately.”Three among many examples it cited were:
- Education for incoming students through online training about sexual violence and orientation sessions. The topic also comes up in a required freshman seminar.
- Ongoing education about zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, resources for victims and bystander intervention.
- Victim advocacy. The university said it has had a full-time victim’s advocate for 13 years, available at all hours, every day, to take confidential reports, link students to support services, and explain options for adjudication of a complaint.
University of South Carolina
A spokesman said in an e-mail:
“We take the issue of sexual assault very seriously on our campus. Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, and it’s never tolerated at the University of South Carolina.
“There are numerous resources for students, faculty or staff who may be survivors, some of which are confidential for those who desire anonymity. We encourage anyone to report an incident, preferably to law enforcement but always to someone: USCPD, the Office of Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention, the Health Center or Equal Opportunity Programs, our Title IX office.
“Education is critical when it comes to stopping sexual assault and encouraging students to report. Understanding what constitutes sexual assault, the definition of consent and what it means to be an active bystander are of utmost importance. Our Office of Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention offers a number of training and awareness programs throughout the year. Several years ago, we began to require all freshman take an online course about sexual assault. Soon, we’ll be expanding that to faculty and staff.
“To enhance those efforts we will launch a campus-wide education campaign this fall. Our goal is to get more information in to the hands of our community and enhance their understanding of sexual assault, available resources and responsibilities under the law and university.”
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
Dean of Students Joe Abhold said in a statement:
“The issue of sexual assault is a serious national concern that is alarmingly prevalent in and near places where there are large concentrations of young people, such as colleges, universities and military bases.
“The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire takes the issue of sexual assault seriously and provides a wide array of education, prevention, support, reporting and enforcement services to students and their families.
“We educate incoming students about consent, bystander intervention and reporting through a professional live improvisation show called ‘Sex Signals’ during their first days on campus and provide ongoing education throughout the year. The university is fortunate to have a victim advocate who works for our community rape crisis center housed on campus four days a week. This professional not only provides direct education and support services, but also trains and supervises peer sexual assault victim advocates who are on call to assist students 24/7.
“While no victim of sexual assault or other criminal actions should be considered responsible for what happens to them, we educate our first-year students especially that the best way to protect themselves against crimes is to stay sober, stay in the company of friends and to watch out for each other.
“We also strongly encourage students to report any instances of sexual assault or interpersonal violence. Efforts are made to help students understand the confidential, on-campus support resources available to them – Counseling Services, Student Health Service, Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault – as well as the resources available to assist them with restoring their sense of safety through support and investigation of complaints.”