Last September, President Theobald appointed a committee to address sexual assault, an issue surrounding many college and university campuses across the country. Today, he revealed the findings of the “Presidential Committee on Campus Sexual Misconduct,” and how he plans to combat the issue through several of the committee’s recommendations.
Theobald said in an email memo sent out to the university community this afternoon that four major recommendations made by the committee – led by College of Public Health Dean Laura Siminoff – will be implemented: the creation of a new website focusing on sexual misconduct, updating the Student Conduct Code, requiring all students to participate in mandatory, annual online sexual-misconduct awareness training and improving the infrastructure of resources and services allocated toward the issue.
One significant recommendation Theobald did not approve is the creation of a university office to educate and provide coordinated support and services for victims. He said this is not needed because Temple already has the “capacity and skills” needed to carry out the recommendations.
“I commit that if my judgment proves incorrect, I will revisit this recommendation,” Theobald wrote in the memo. “I also commit that lack of resources will not be the reason that the university is unable to carry out these critical duties.”
A specific addition to the modification of the Student Conduct Code will be hiring a retired judge to conduct specific hearings, according to the memo. This, along with other changes, will “enhance internal processes” concerning the issue of sexual misconduct.
The mandatory sexual-misconduct awareness training is set to occur this fall for sophomores, juniors and senior, according to the memo. The required training is designed to increase awareness of the issue to students, something that has been hard to gather in the past.
Dean of Students Stephanie Ives said in an email that the awareness training would take between 30-45 minutes, and that the program will address several aspects of sexual misconduct.
“We are currently reviewing several training options but anticipate that the program will addresses intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking as well as bystander skill and confidence-building strategies,” Ives said.
According to the committee’s report, the 2014 Climate Survey – designed to assess students’ perception of how the university treats sexual misconduct – had a response rate of 11.3 percent.
The same survey stated that “40.9% of undergraduate respondents and 25.1% of graduate respondents would be very, moderately, or somewhat likely to not report sexual misconduct” because they fear that they or someone they know would be punished for their actions, like underage drinking. This in turn, may lead to underreporting, a huge problem involving sexual misconduct.
The report also stated that “there were 626 unique individuals identifying 971 events of sexual misconduct in 2014,” and that many of these incidents were not reported to Temple or other authorities.
Ives said that the new website will provide victims with information about options for reporting incidents, and will be featured on several university web pages, including the Wellness Resource Center, Student Conduct, Equal Opportunity Compliance/Title IX, Student Affairs and the Dean of Students.
In the memo’s conclusion, President Theobald thanked the committee for its work and stated that the plans that will be put into effect will help combat the problem of sexual misconduct.
“Sexual misconduct is a serious issue, and we must all work together to create and maintain a safe, respectful and welcoming environment on our campus,” Theobald wrote in the memo. “The plans we have developed further enhance the information, support services and fair proceedings that are available to all parties.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.