How do colleges work to prevent sexual assault?

 Trinity U students support Coalition for Respect

by David Tuttle —

Over the last several years there have been many news stories nationally about sexual assault on college campuses. As a father of college-aged students and a Trinity University administrator, these stories hit close to home. Every parent I know or meet believes that sending a child to college should be about academic and personal development and success.

Student safety is always a concern for parents, and dealing with issues of sexual misconduct in particular heightens anxiety. While federal guidelines are comprehensive, universities tailor policies and procedures to fit their own campus culture.

Here are some things you should know as a parent.

Addressing Title IX on Campus
Whether through policies, speakers, orientation programs, or review committees, Trinity University staff, faculty, and students have worked diligently to prevent sexual assault and other Title IX offenses for decades. In 2011, the Department of Education “Dear Colleague” Letter created a framework for universities to optimize compliance. This empowered victims of sexual violence to step forward and demand that their rights be upheld with dignity. Subsequently, accused students have alleged administrative over-reach in handling cases. Many cases are played out in the courtrooms and media. Here is some very basic information about Trinity University's approach to sexual assault and Title IX offenses:

We strive to prevent assault through education. Once allegations are brought to light, all parties are treated with compassion through a process that emphasizes fairness and transparency.

Student culture
The majority of complaints that arise involve one or more parties who had been consuming alcohol. Trinity University staff members work with students to help them create safer on and off campus environments which respect the sexual safety of all people. In the spring of 2016 several student organizations held empowering forums and discussions to further create a healthy campus climate.

Institutional responsibility
Trinity University has an open Coalition for Respect that includes students, faculty, and staff and which meets regularly to assess and discuss the campus climate, to plan educational initiatives, to review policies and procedures, and to host campus forums. Sexual assault and other sexual harassment and violence issues are everyone's responsibility, so we take a community-based approach. In 2014-15 Trinity participated in a climate review study with a national consortium and will continue assessments every other year.

Trinity U students support Coalition for Respect
Leaders of Trinity University's Coalition for Respect during the kNOwMORE campaign.
 How do you educate students?
All incoming students are required to take an online course prior to fall class registration. A Bystander Action program is part of New Student Orientation. There are a number of awareness programs and educational materials (distributed in dorm rooms, electronically, and on bulletin boards) as part of our annual kNOw MORE campaign.

Student support
All students are offered confidential support through Counseling and Health Services and the Chapel program. Faculty and staff, including student residential life staff members are trained to refer students to those resources on campus who can assist them. San Antonio's Rape Crisis Center offers excellent community resources and support. When complaints are made students have the right to have housing and academic accommodations arranged on their behalf. Out of respect for student confidentiality and privacy, students decide whether or not to notify family members whether they are accused or accusing students.

What happens when a complaint is lodged?
While students may pursue criminal complaints, they may also seek assistance from the University by submitting administrative complaints. (By regulation they may do either or both.) Trinity University routinely updates and publishes its policies and procedures to reflect the latest and best practices for managing cases. A team of over 20 trained faculty and staff members serve as case facilitators, investigators, advocates, and hearing panelists.

How can I learn more?
Trinity University Sexual Assault Webpage
Trinity University electronic brochure on policies and procedures
2015 Coalition for Respect Annual Report
Coalition Facebook page
HEDS climate survey data

Trinity University strives to educate students, assist students in developing and maintaining a culture of respect, and conducts thorough and professional investigations. We urge our community to assess our effectiveness based on our commitment to compassion and fairness.

About David

David M. Tuttle is an associate vice president and Dean of Students at Trinity University. You can read his blog, The Dean's List, here.


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