Dear Members of the University Community,
I am writing to thank you for your candor, your suggestions, and your thoughtful engagement in conversations we have had in recent weeks about the University’s sexual violence prevention and response efforts, and what we might do to strengthen our work in this area. I am especially grateful for the crucial perspective that survivors have provided. From these conversations with students, staff, faculty, alumni, and parents, clear consensus emerged around specific initiatives that would be most valuable and effective as we continue our efforts. I outline below steps we will be taking immediately, and I likewise encourage you to continue to engage in the University’s important work in this area.
Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
First, I have heard from many of you that the University’s support resources should not only be robust, but also be located together, as the elements are interrelated and should constitute a holistic approach. The University will be moving forward with creation of a Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. The Center resources will include our position focused on education and prevention activities. As I announced previously, this will be a full-time, permanent position, for which the search is already underway. The University will also add a dedicated counselor in CAPS, with expertise in counseling and support of survivors of sexual violence. In January, CAPS will begin providing weekend and evening options for appointments, expanding access to that important resource outside of business hours. Finally, the Center will also include a survivor advocate, a confidential independent resource who can assist students in accessing on-campus and local resources. The advocate will be knowledgeable about University processes and will provide support to students who pursue the campus conduct process, choose not to report at all, or choose to report to police.
Title IX Processes Independent of the Coordinate Colleges
Many community members also have suggested that sexual misconduct investigations and conduct processes should be independent of the Coordinate Colleges. Moving forward, the investigators for these cases, the conduct officer, and the hearing officer will be independent of the Coordinate Colleges. The University will also launch a search for a new Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students, so that that role, now served by members of the deans’ office staffs, will also be independent of the Coordinate Colleges. Going forward, hearing sites will be outside of the colleges, and complainants will retain the opportunity to participate in the hearing via videoconference if preferred. The process will continue to have appropriate checks and balances, as well as the opportunity for appeal. The deans’ offices will retain their critically important roles in supporting our students.
President’s Advisory Committee
In the past few weeks, University community members have demonstrated a shared commitment to addressing the problem of sexual violence, and a desire to contribute to the responsibility we all share to ensuring the safety of our campus. To continue this important work I will be establishing a President’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response. This Advisory Committee will have representation from across the University community, including students, staff, faculty, alumni, and Trustees, and will be responsible for reviewing the University’s training, prevention, and response efforts, as well as policies and procedures. This year, the Advisory Committee will also focus on the results of the external review of the University’s policies and procedures, and review suggestions that have been made by members of the University community that have not already been addressed. The Advisory Committee will have an important role to play in considering opportunities for the University to enhance its prevention efforts. A number of you identified aspects of campus culture to be explored, and the Advisory Committee will consider those suggestions as well as the experiences of other campuses that have had success in changing campus culture in important areas such as alcohol consumption. Recommendations from the Advisory Committee will help guide our ongoing work in this area. If you would like to nominate someone to serve on this Advisory Committee or have a suggestion to offer the Advisory Committee, please provide it here.
Enhanced Programming and Resources
We will be continuing our existing Title IX training efforts, and faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in an upcoming training. For students, we will be enhancing orientation training and launching new training for sophomores on January 1. I appreciate the work of all of those who have helped develop that training curriculum over the past year. We will also be working with students who lead our peer-to-peer and bystander efforts, including our Spiders for Spiders, to identify ways to extend their powerful work. We are also making more prominent the 24/7 hotline for survivors, as well as the way to reach on-call deans’ office staff at night and on weekends. Students will receive new University ID cards with these numbers printed on the back by the beginning of the spring semester. For additional information about the University’s existing processes or how to help someone in need, please see the University’s sexual misconduct site.
As we continue to improve and enhance our prevention and response efforts, I want to thank all members of our community who are engaged daily in our important work in this area and in support of our students. It has been heartening to see, in recent weeks, such strong evidence of our shared dedication across the University to the growth and flourishing of all of our students. I look forward to our continued work together to ensure that the campus climate reflects our collective values and that we achieve our shared aspirations for the University of Richmond.
Ronald A. Crutcher