Local colleges: Task force’s plan will bolster safety

The Daily Star

April 30, 2014

Local universities “applaud” and are on board with the White House’s new plan to reduce sexual assault on college campuses, college officials said Tuesday.

Hartwick College’s vice president of student affairs, Meg Nowak, said the school applauds the administration’s Tuesday announcement of commitment to protect students and help put an end to sexual assault on campuses. Hartwick is committed to ending sexual assault and related conduct on campus, preventing recurrences and addressing the problem’s affect on the victim and community, she said.

“Any measures that will assist schools to identify the problem; improve prevention efforts and increase coordination of training and investigative activities are welcome and important steps to address this intolerable and unlawful conduct.”

Hal Legg, State University College at Oneonta’s director of communications, said the college shares President Barack Obama’s hope that bringing attention to sexual assault will help make campuses and communities safer. The college especially applauds The White House Task Force’s emphasis on engaging men as allies for the cause, he said.

SUNY Oneonta officials are still digesting the report, Legg said, but the college is already in sync with many mandates that the Task Force recommended in its plan and offers several resources and activities aimed at preventing and responding to sexual violence. Besides counseling, workshops and tools to report violence, the campus has strong relationships with organizations such as the Violence Intervention Program and Opportunities for Otsego, Legg said. This broadens the range of services available to students and includes a 24-hour hotline for victims, as well as training to become a state certified rape crisis counselor.

SUNY Oneonta reported a total of six sexual offenses to the U.S. Department of Education during the last three years for which complete data is available (2010, 2011, and 2012), Legg said. In 2013, the college reorganized their Providing Advocacy and Intervention Regarding Sexual Assault program into a group called Know Violence, which is administered by the Counseling, Health & Wellness Center, he said. Know Violence programming includes the popular Re-Think campaign, which is designed to focus the blame on perpetrators of sexual assault. More than 450 SUNY Oneonta students have participated in the Re-Think program, he said. “Our primary goals are to empower our students to be knowledgeable bystanders who can intervene in situations that may lead to sexual violence, to assist students who have been assaulted, and to hold responsible those who commit sexual violence,” Legg said. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said she is pleased that the Task Force is suggesting that colleges administer and publish an annual survey about campus sexual assaults.

“The price of a college education should never include a one-in-five chance of being sexually assaulted,” Gillibrand said.

Barbara Jones, vice president for student life at the State University College of Technology at Delhi, said Tuesday night that the college did not have a chance to review the Task Force’s recommendations since the report was just issued.

“Student safety is our top priority and we take it very seriously,” Jones said. “We will be reviewing the report closely to consider all the recommendations to enhance our efforts in meeting the spirit and requirements of Title IX.”

Officials at SUNY Cobleskill didn’t have time to study the report’s recommendations yet, either, according to the school’s director of communications and marketing, Diane Dobry.

“We will certainly review it carefully,” Dobry said, “to see how its recommendations can enhance our campus-wide commitment to student safety.