New IU initiative addresses sexual violence prevention

  • Aug. 11, 2014

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By MJ Slaby

A new website and thousands of posters are just two of the ways Indiana University is displaying its dedication to sexual violence prevention and education. And more is going on behind the scenes.

IU officials unveiled a Student Welfare Initiative to an impressed Board of Trustees on Friday. The initiative ramps up efforts on all campuses for sexual violence prevention and response.

“I think this is incredible work for such an incredibly important topic,” said student Trustee Janice Farlow.

At the April board meeting, the trustees approved a Commitment to Student Welfare statement that called for no tolerance for sexual assault and for compliance with all related prevention and reporting laws. This puts that into action, IU officials said.

“I’m not aware of any other university board that has made such a strong statement,” said John Applegate, IU executive vice president for university academic affairs.

He said IU has been dedicated to this work for many years.

“IU has been a leader in responding to this very serious problem,” Applegate said.

Launching later this month is a university website to be a single reference point for all existing IU resources relating to sexual assault. Also going up are more than 6,000 posters with sexual violence definitions and resources in bathrooms across campus, said Emily Springston, IU associate general counsel.

The initiative also works to ensure IU has a proper response to federal laws, aims to increase transparency, accountability and education, and falls within the White House’s nationwide effort to take action against sexual assault on college campuses.

The goal is to do more than just what the law requires, said Jackie Simmons, IU vice president and general counsel, who presented the initiative to the IU trustees with Springston and Applegate.

Simmons said the legal policies relating to sexual assault and violence are constantly changing, so it’s up to IU to stay up-to-the-minute on compliance.

Several groups have been created within the initiative, including an executive council, compliance committee, senior student affairs officers’ council and a research roundtable. There will also be a new position, a student welfare compliance coordinator.

Currently, IU Bloomington is part of a compliance review from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Campus leaders were told the review was routine and not based on a complaint, Simmons said.

Regardless, the initiative is how the university is addressing coordination, consistency and communication about university

policies relating to sexual violence.

“I think this is an amazing piece of work. This is a historical collaboration. We’ve been doing all of this work already, so it’s just bringing all the pieces together,” said Trustee MaryEllen Bishop.

Trustee James Morris agreed. He and fellow Trustee Philip Eskew said they’d like to see continued reports to the board about IU’s efforts to prevent sexual assault and to educate students and staff.

Applegate said the trustees’ and President Michael McRobbie’s involvement in the initiative sends a clear message from IU that sexual violence prevention and response is a priority.

“It’s a serious and complex problem. The ultimate solution lies in changing culture, which is difficult and takes time,” he said.