Nov. 11, 2013

Sexual violence prevention takes community approach

The new Council on Sexual Violence Prevention (CSVP), established by President David Skorton in September, aims to change cultural factors that contribute to sexual violence and to boost the effectiveness of prevention and response strategies. The council met for the first time Oct. 2.

Chaired by Vice Presidents Susan Murphy and Mary Opperman and comprising more than 40 students, faculty, staff and local service providers, the council receives administrative support from the Executive Committee on Campus Climate, Health and Safety (ECCCHS).

“The new council is focused on addressing issues of sexual violence and promoting a positive campus climate that counters all forms of sexual misconduct,” said Murphy, vice president for student and academic services. “By including students, faculty, staff and partners from the Ithaca community, the council will bring a community perspective to these concerns, increasing the likely impact and success of any initiatives we undertake.”

CSVP’s goals, principles, structure and membership can be found on the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) website.

CSVP is the latest in a recent series of initiatives to strengthen the university’s efforts to prevent and respond to bias and sexual violence. In a February update to the Cornell community, Skorton expanded ECCCHS’s health and safety focus to include sexual violence prevention and other campus climate issues, and charged it to develop “clear response protocols for bias incidents that affect the entire community” as a first priority.

These bias response protocols were finalized in the spring and include a new team of faculty, students and staff – the Incident Assessment/Response Team, led by Dean of Students Kent Hubbell – to provide a coordinated, agile responses to incidents through crisis managers, community support groups and other university channels.

“Our aim is to make sure the campus remains a safe and respectful academic and workplace environment focused on education,” said Opperman, vice president for human resources and safety services. “We not only have a commitment to raise awareness for faculty, staff and students around bias reporting, but also we have a responsibility to educate the Cornell community on how to create an inclusive and welcoming environment.”

Educational initiatives for faculty and staff continue across the university. To date, 842 faculty and academic staff and 5,176 nonacademic staff have taken the online course Respect@Cornell: Eliminating Harassment and Discrimination, designed to help employees identify potential prohibitive acts and how to report them. The 15th Annual Diversity Update Conference on Nov. 18 will address concerns of workplace bullying, bias, discrimination and civility. It will draw more than 100 attendees from across campus and the region.

In August the University Policy Office issued a revised university policy (Policy 6.4) that deals with discrimination, harassment and sexual violence and assault. The revisions, made in accordance with the University Assembly Resolution 7 that passed in April 2012, delineate the procedures for investigating reports of sexual harassment and assault allegations by the Office of the Judicial Administrator (when students are accused) and by the Office of Workforce Policy and Labor Relations (when faculty or staff are accused). The procedures are designed to provide a thorough investigation and opportunity for both parties to be fully heard in a fair and neutral way. Support is available to all parties during the process.

Also in August, several educational and training programs about sexual misconduct and violence were conducted during New Student Orientation, including “Speak About It,” a new program on sexual violence held for all incoming undergraduates, and the Tapestry of Possibilities program, which included new scenarios addressing sexual misconduct. A core group of residential advisers also were trained to help infuse concepts of community and respect into their living/learning communities.

“Students also want to be part of the solution, and they know how to convey messages about sexual assault to their peers,” Murphy said.  “Over the last few years, there have been many successful student-led programs, such as Wingman 101, Consent Ed and the Every1 Campaign. We’re eager to support initiatives for students, staff and faculty through the efforts of the new council.”

For more information on the process of filing a complaint on campus and answers questions for students who have experienced or observed sexual misconduct, refer to “Filing a Complaint on Campus After an Incident of Sexual Assault or Harassment.” A comparable resource on reporting harassment and discrimination is available for faculty, staff and student employees.