The start of the school year marks an important opportunity for the Georgetown University community to acknowledge our collective responsibility to prevent and appropriately address sexual assault and misconduct. These problems persist on college campuses across the nation, including here on the Hilltop, and we are continuing to step up our efforts to address it.
As university leaders responsible for the safety and well-being of our community, we want to underscore our longstanding commitment to this issue and remind students of the resources and information about roles and processes available to them.
As a campus, we have made significant progress addressing these issues, but our work is not yet finished. Leaders across our community have stepped up to improve access to and awareness of resources, and the university has implemented new policies to ensure prevention and education efforts are taken seriously. This important work continues, as we are working on hiring our next full-time Title IX coordinator and forming plans to administer a second campus climate survey.
Since our 70-member Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force concluded its work in 2017, the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Advisory Committee has been overseeing implementation of the task force’s recommendations. SAMAC will continue collaborating with the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action and help build out the Coordinated Community Response Team to further this work.
Educating students about sexual misconduct is central to our efforts. This semester, more than 98 percent of first-year undergraduates completed online training modules about sexual misconduct and alcohol issues, and more than 1,700 students have participated or are scheduled to participate in “Bringing in the Bystander,” a comprehensive, in-person training course. Students will be barred from registering for spring semester courses if they fail to complete these requirements, a new policy based on student input. Student volunteers have also ensured the implementation and success of the “I Am Ready” program during New Student Orientation. Beyond these programs, there is a new optional experience for incoming students, “Introduction to Hoya Studies: Thriving at Georgetown,” a non-credit seminar that offers students valuable tools for making healthy choices and thriving on the Hilltop. We encourage students who want to get involved in this important issue to explore the many opportunities available to them.
The task force has also recommended additional programming and training for the broader community. To that end, the Georgetown University Police Department has expanded its Sexual Assault Response Team, which has received enhanced, trauma-informed training from on- and off-campus experts. There are now 14 SART officers working with survivors, with a goal of having at least one of these officers on duty 24 hours a day. Health Education Services has also hired an additional full-time staff clinician and sexual assault specialist to expand counseling services and offer more education and training.
In addition to prevention, the university’s Title IX coordinators launched an improved sexual misconduct website in January, which highlights on- and off-campus resources and provides information on confidential counseling services. The new online reporting form allows students, faculty and staff to report concerns or incidents related to sexual assault and misconduct.
Our work on this issue continued this past summer and will continue throughout the school year. In July, we began a national search for our next full-time Title IX coordinator, immediately after Laura Cutway departed for another position. We are conducting this search with due diligence, ensuring we can recruit a highly qualified and experienced individual to serve our community as soon as possible. We have identified top candidates and will be welcoming them to campus in the coming weeks to meet with faculty, staff and students who play an active role on campus in preventing and addressing sexual misconduct. While the search is underway, our Title IX investigator, Samantha Berner, is fulfilling the responsibilities of Title IX coordinator.
Additionally, during the spring semester, we will administer our second campuswide sexual assault and misconduct climate survey. Students come to Georgetown to learn and grow, and we are committed to preventing sexual assault and misconduct in our classrooms, residence halls and throughout campus. We encourage students to make their voices heard in this survey so we can hear about student experiences, understand what students face, and learn how new resources and programming are serving students.
Georgetown is committed to addressing all cases of sexual misconduct, supporting survivors, and ensuring prompt and equitable processes for investigating and responding to complaints of sexual misconduct. If a complaint is filed with the university, we will ensure a full, fair, and impartial investigation.
Stopping sexual assault and misconduct is a shared responsibility for which we all have roles to play. In addition to campus policies that protect students and available university resources, student volunteers lead hours of prevention programming and training. Our entire community has the responsibility to know about the resources available to address this issue and hold each other accountable to be active bystanders.
As Hoyas for others, we all need to embrace our duty to create a campus community that is respectful and safe for everyone.
Todd Olson is the vice president for student affairs, and Rosemary Kilkenny is the vice president of institutional diversity and equity, overseeing the Office of Title IX Compliance.