Fairfield University Cited for Best Practices in Preventing Campus Sexual Assault
In a new report issued by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Fairfield University is one of three colleges and universities in the state cited forbest practices for its policies to prevent campus sexual assault. At the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., Sen. Blumenthal, joined by Dean of Students Karen Donoghue, other college administrators, faculty, students and advocates, released a College Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights Report. The report is a culmination of a series of statewide campus dialogues with more than 450 Connecticut students, faculty, administrators, women’s groups, and advocates that included a student-roundtable discussion in March at the University hosted by Sen. Blumenthal, pictured (on right) with Dr. Thomas C. Pellegrino, vice president for Student Affairs.
Today’s report, in a section entitled “Best Practices – College and University Policies to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault,”recognizes Fairfield“as one of three case studies of schools in Connecticut that have taken an aggressive approach to the issue and have developed programs that can and should be used as models for others seeking to address campus sexual assaults.”
“Fairfield University is uniquely committed to supporting Senator Blumenthal’s ‘College Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights Report’ given our mission which includes as a fundamental principle that our students should be women and men with and for others at all times,” said Pellegrino. “This is a commitment to care, respect, honor, and support every member of the campus community. These are not just words, but are directives that must manifest themselves in the form of excellent support services for victims, impartial and expedient investigations, and fair hearings.”
The report cites the University’s multiple resources, education programs, and disciplinary process. These include:
- Having a certified Title IX investigation team which handles all sexual assault cases that occur on campus.
- Working closely with the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) to provide annual training to board members and other community members on the experiences of victims and the handling of sexual assault cases.
- Enacting a policy that requires all employees to report any instance of sexual assault that they encounter (unless prohibited from doing so by legal confidentiality requirements).
- Increasing its efforts to make students believe that the University wants students to report instances of sexual assault and that the University will take action in response.
- Providing all students with a brochure containing information for survivors of sexual assault.
- Requiring all incoming students to complete the HALO Text, a one-hour online sexual assault awareness and prevention course with a special focus on LGBT victims of sexual assault.
- Having a mandatory curriculum for freshmen students that includes a course dedicated to healthy relationships, including information about sexual violence, trends on campus, resources available for students, and what to do if a friend is the victim of sexual violence.
- Regularly conducting educational programs relating to sexual violence on campus in partnership with CONNSACS and national organizations, such as Jane Doe No More, the Center for Women and Families, and Rape Aggression Defense Systems.
- Conducting annual staff training for its Title IX investigation team, with plans to expand this staff training program to other faculty members.
- Having its Department of Public Safety conduct workshops and sensitivity training for its own staff members.
- Its Disciplinary Process includes having a stand-alone judicial board - the Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Board - which is designated solely to handle sexual assault cases. The University's Title IX compliance coordinator can take pre-disciplinary hearing corrective actions to benefit the victim, including no-contact orders, on-campus housing changes, escorts, adjustment of course schedules, counseling services, medical services, and academic support services.
Between January and April 2014, Sen. Blumenthal hosted seven forum discussions on campus sexual assault. Besides Fairfield, forums were held at University of Hartford, Southern Connecticut State University, University of St. Joseph, Western Connecticut State University, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, and Connecticut College. The statewide dialogue was triggered by the January release of the White House Council on Women and Girls' report that found nearly one in five women (22 million) and one in 71 men (1.6 million) had been victims of sexual assault. The other schools recognized for their policies to prevent campus sexual assault were Connecticut College and Central Connecticut State College.