Campus update on sexual assault policies, progress
This past summer, Binghamton University was at the center of a social media campaign that reported incidents of sexual violence involving current and former students and some of our student organizations. The stories made it clear that, as an institution, Binghamton has a long way to go in terms of halting sexual harassment and assault and supporting those whose personal safety has been violated.
“We are listening and we are dedicated to doing better,” said President Harvey Stenger. “Our University has as its highest priority the safety of our students and the experiences we have learned about have made us extremely concerned about student personal well-being and safety.”
In mid-July, Stenger announced a multi-step plan that has begun to address these issues.
“It’s time to update the campus community on our progress,” Stenger said. “We’ve taken a number of actions including, importantly, the creation of a Title IX Council to follow and investigate sexual assault cases on campus.”
The council has already begun meeting on a weekly basis, Stenger said. Its members include the University’s Title IX officer; a representative of the University Police Department; the dean of students; the director of health and counseling; the director of the CARE Team; the director of student conduct; the assistant vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion; the director of Residential Life; and the director of Health Promotion and Prevention Services.
“We’ve also have appointed Anna Jantz, a member of our CARE Team, to the role of sexual assault advocate, and several of our counselors at our University Counseling Center (UCC) are participating in specialized training to develop expertise in supporting victims of sexual assault,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose. “Because this is specialized work, the UCC is training several counselors so victims will have options and to expand the center’s collective expertise. Resources and funding are being directed to this critical area of need.”
Resources have also been directed to engaging the national law firm Husch Blackwell, which has higher education and Title IX practice groups, to review our programs and practices. “Their review will include reviewing files and documents, but also meeting with students, staff and student organizations on campus,” Stenger said. “We expect the review to be complete by the end of the semester and we’ll wait for the report before addressing any changes to our sanctioning guidelines and as part of our annual Code of Student Conduct review.”
The University is hiring two additional sexual violence investigators, specifically trained for this work, one to report to our Title IX office and the other to report to Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Karen Jones.
“We are pleased that both positions have been posted and are looking forward to the candidate recommendations of the search committees,” Jones said. “The investigators will assist with addressing, responding to and reviewing complaints relating to Title IX and other policy violations. To this end, the interest of both investigators is to safeguard the interest of the campus community, particularly those who have experienced sexual violence.”
Additionally, the following actions are underway:
- Health Promotion and Prevention Services has implemented a new sexual assault training program built by Safe Colleges for incoming students. To date, 13 presentations to 370 students, including RAs, fraternities/sororities, TRIO and Harpur’s Ferry have been completed and about four dozen more are scheduled with additional requests are coming in.
- Awareness and prevention training programs for faculty, staff and administrators to better support students who have experienced a sexual assault have been increased. A list of recent training by our Title IX office is available at https://www.binghamton.edu/rmac/title-ix/presentations.html.
- An anonymous online reporting site that anyone can use to report a case of a sexual assault that they have seen or been part of was created. This reporting process protects the identity of the reporting individual and emails the Title IX coordinator and University President directly. Seven reports have been received since the form went live in July. Title IX contacted all individuals who requested to be contacted and ensured that support and resources were sent to them. Further improvements to the form are forthcoming and suggestions on additional developments are welcomed.
- The University has adopted a new Title IX Grievance Process to address changes in federal regulations that took effect in August 2020. The Grievance Process was created in accordance with a SUNY model policy common to all campuses. This process establishes dedicated investigators for sexual assault cases.
- The University will continue to conduct annual surveys of student, faculty and staff experiences of sexual violence and harassment.
- The University will ensure and continue to comply with NCAA Title IX attestation requirements, including educating all student-athletes, coaches and staff each year on sexual violence prevention, intervention and response. Title IX coordinator Andrew Baker provided training for the athletics staff on Aug. 24 and Sept. 24.
“We fully understand there is still a long way to go and this remains one of our highest priorities,” said Stenger. “We will continue to seek ways to stop sexual assaults on our campus, while also ensuring the support of those who have experienced any level of sexual harassment, assault or violence. One report is one too many!”