newsstudent sexual misconduct important information uva alumni parents

Student Sexual Misconduct: Important information for UVA alumni, parents


uva-logoBy Teresa Sullivan, President, University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is a caring community based on the principles of honor, respect, and personal accountability. Yet we know that incidents of misconduct and violence — including sexual misconduct and violence — do sometimes occur on our Grounds. The issue of sexual assault on college campuses has become an object of national attention in recent months, and legislators at both the federal and state levels are quickly setting forth recommendations for action. At UVa, faculty, staff, and students have been working together on this issue for some time through a variety of efforts, with a long-standing policy and website focused on education and prevention. This fall we are enacting several new measures to further our work to prevent sexual misconduct and violence.

Education and training are important first steps. We have launched a new website that provides information for our students and employees about sexual violence and how to report it. Our incoming students participate in learning programs about sexual-violence prevention and bystander intervention as part of their orientation process, and formal, online training for students will begin in November of this year. In the meantime, our Dean of Students has hired a new, full-time professional to focus exclusively on sexual misconduct and hazing education and prevention.

UVa’s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs offers a required training program for employees focused on preventing sexual harassment, and we are in the process of creating a new employee training program that will focus more specifically on addressing student sexual misconduct. We expect to launch the new program in early January 2015.

Effective communication with students is important when sexual misconduct happens, so we have adopted a new policy this fall that gives students who experience an incident of sexual misconduct two options for communicating with us. One option is to speak with a faculty or staff member who will be required to report the incident to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, and the other option is to speak confidentially with a UVa professional who works in a health-care or counseling role. You can read more about the policy here. Some students may prefer to talk with a confidential source first, while others may want to pursue a more formal reporting approach right away. They will have both options.

Cooperation with local law enforcement is an essential step in our effort to prevent sexual violence and to respond effectively when it occurs. I recently met with the Commonwealth’s Attorneys for Charlottesville and Albemarle County and the leaders of the city, county, and UVa police departments to discuss this issue. Together, we agreed to reinforce and strengthen our existing collaborative relationships, and we expect that soon we will begin working on a multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement agencies and Commonwealth’s Attorneys to further solidify our collaboration on this front. Policy makers at both the federal and state levels are expected to recommend this action soon, so we are laying the foundation now to implement this important component of our prevention and response efforts.

One of the recommendations in the recent report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was to conduct climate surveys on America’s college campuses. The Association of American Universities (UVa is a member institution) is in the process of hiring a research firm to develop a climate survey. The firm will be responsible for developing and implementing a multi-campus survey of university students in the spring of 2015.

To encourage bystander intervention that can help prevent sexual violence, our students developed a campaign named “Not on Our Grounds.” We are especially focused on the first few months of the academic year, a period known as “The Red Zone” because this is the time when first-year women are at highest risk for sexual assault. As part of “Not on Our Grounds” campaign, we are partnering with merchants on The Corner to raise awareness about the importance of bystander intervention and to distribute T-shirts and window stickers that support our campaign. Students have been deeply involved in the “Not on Our Grounds” campaign from the beginning. To promote the campaign, they produced an educational video called “Hoos Got Your Back.”

Our efforts this fall are building on our prior work focused on sexual misconduct among college students. Last February, we held a national summit on this issue at the University. UVa students and students from other colleges and universities across the country participated in the two-day dialogue, along with many experts in the field. Our findings at this conference helped to guide many of the actions we are taking this fall.

Sexual assault and other forms of violence have no place in the community of trust that we uphold and promote at UVa. I want to assure our alumni, parents, and friends that my UVa colleagues and I are focused intently on this issue, and, together with our students, we are working to prevent sexual misconduct here. Our message to anyone who would perpetrate this behavior is unequivocal: Not on our Grounds.



Have a story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.