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July 15, 2014, Message from the VP of Campus Life

This is the second of three summer updates to inform the campus community about progress in addressing alleged misconduct associated with the underground group Epsilon Iota (EI) and in enhancing AU’s efforts to prevent sexual violence and support victims/survivors. This message builds on the measures described in the June 13 campus update.

Epsilon Iota E-mail Chain
We reported earlier that Campus Life contacted everyone in the EI e-mail chain who was an AU student in Spring 2014, and appeared to be the target or victim of abuse by EI. Campus Life informed them about support services and procedures for filing complaints. One harassment case, referred to Student Conduct, has been concluded since the first update. Public Safety continues to work with the U.S. Attorney and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on EI-related investigations. All incidents of alleged sexual assault and alleged conspiracy to commit sexual assault are under review by Public Safety in cooperation with the MPD Sexual Assault Unit and the U.S. Attorney.

Off-Campus Alcohol and Drug Use
Public Safety has concluded an analysis of last year’s alcohol and drug related student conduct cases to document the off-campus locations where these violations occurred. Public Safety will use this information to inform its interventions in the fall. It also will share its findings with MPD and the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to enlist their support in targeting locations where students are engaging in illegal and high risk activities.

Intervention Strategies
We continue to operate on the guidance provided in the Not Alone Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Several members of the Campus Life staff participated in the You Are NOT ALONE roundtable on June 24, sponsored by the Government of the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services, in partnership with Men Can Stop Rape.

The White House Report highlights the importance of campus and community agency partnerships in meeting students’ needs for prevention education and victim/survivor services. The roundtable afforded us an excellent opportunity to interact with representatives of agencies and organizations that included DC Rape Crisis Center, DC Sexual Assault Crisis Response Project, DC Forensic Nurse Examiners, Sexual Assault Unit/Special Investigations Branch of the MPD — and others. We are actively pursuing ways to engage these organizations in our training and make the best use of their resources for AU students. For example, the DC Coalition against Domestic Violence has trained the AU Conduct Council and PEERS — Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence — in providing trauma informed services. AU’s sexual assault prevention coordinator will represent the university at monthly meetings between the DC Office of Victim Services and the newly formed DC college consortium.

Education & Training
We have just concluded the 2014 Eagle Summits. Over the course of six, two-day programs, approximately 1,200 new students and their family members were introduced to the bystander intervention program, STEP-UP!, and coached in STEP-UP! strategies. Following the Critical Issues session, which addresses sexual violence, 90.8% of student participants strongly agreed or agreed that After attending Eagle Summit, I am more familiar with critical issues affecting the AU community and the resources provided to address them.

Here are some of the students’ responses to the question: After learning about the STEP UP! Program, how will you step up when you return to AU in the fall?

  • I want to help in spreading awareness of dating violence. I also will be aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning.
  • I will be an active bystander and not leave a situation unless I am sure it is being taken care of.
  • If I see harassment of any sort, I will take action myself or find someone that can help solve the problem.
  • I will look at and be aware of my surroundings, then follow step up procedures.
  • I will always address people making sexist, racist or homophobic remarks.

Students’ specific STEP UP! strategies will form the basis for some of the electronic messaging used to continually reinforce bystander intervention lessons during the academic year.

Bystander Intervention Training Video. The AU-specific STEP UP! training video that is under production will be ready by mid-August. It includes vignettes addressing sexual assault, relationship violence, mental health, binge drinking and hazing. The video is designed to engage workshop participants in assessing situations and envisioning their own intervention strategies.

U ASK DC app. At Eagle Summit’s AU Community Showcase, the Wellness staff assisted new students in downloading the app for U ASK DC, so that they will have immediate access to the information needed most in the event of a sexual assault on one of DC’s nine college campuses. The app is confidential and free. [Search "U ASK DC" on the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, or Blackberry Appworld.] We also will promote U ASK DC through the campus electronic message boards in the fall and review downloading procedures at the mandatory residence hall floor meetings during Welcome Week.

University Police Consortium Training Academy. AU Public Safety hosted the 10-week Academy this summer and expanded the training module on “preliminary investigations” to place greater emphasis on sexual assault investigations. The newly hired police cadets who attended from a number of university police departments learned about the three primary responsibilities of law enforcement in sexual assault cases: (1) protect, interview and support the victim/survivor; (2) investigate the crime and apprehend the perpetrator; and (3) collect and preserve evidence of the assault to assist in prosecution of the assailant. The Academy training complements established programs for AU Public Safety officers on sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.

Victim Support
Between mid-May 2013 and mid-May 2014, AU’s sexual assault prevention coordinator and victim advocate saw 137 clients, accounting for approximately 50-60% of his time. The balance of time was spent in sexual assault prevention education and training activities, including work with PEERS — Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence. During the same time period, 77 students sought support from the Counseling Center. There may be some overlap between these two confidential client groups, and the experiences for which they sought support occurred over a range of time and places.

We want to build capacity for victim/survivor advocacy and ensure that we have enough trained staff and student volunteers to support an expanding calendar of sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention workshops. To achieve this, we will hire an additional sexual assault prevention coordinator and victim advocate. We anticipate posting the position within the next several weeks. More detail will be reported in the August campus update.

Policy Development
Revisions to the university’s Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy are in progress. This effort will bring the policy into compliance with the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, by incorporating the same terms and definitions for dating violence, domestic violence and stalking that were added recently to the Student Conduct Code. The revised policy also will list AU’s confidential resources for victims/survivors. The revised policy will take effect on August 1, 2014. There will be a link to it in the August campus update.

Under federal regulations, victims/survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are guaranteed unique rights in disciplinary proceedings. We are reorganizing the Student Conduct Code so that it is easier for victims/survivors to see their rights and responsibilities by stating them both in relevant sections of the Code and in summary in the Code’s section, II. Responsibilities and Rights. The reorganization will be complete before the beginning of the academic year and reported in more detail in the August campus update.

Campus Climate Assessment
Review of Fraternity & Sorority Life. The Campus Committee charged to prepare for the external review of Fraternity & Sorority Life has been appointed. Members are:
Council Presidents: Gabe Menchaca (IFC); Leslie Reid (Panhel); Diana Williams (NPHC) FSL Advisors: Lana Knox (Panhel; AU alum); Nancy Gaskins (AKA; AU alum); Jesse Epstein (IFC; AU alum)
AU Staff: Nicole Schoeb (Academic Support & Access Center); Michelle Espinosa (Office of the Dean of Students); Megan Cohen (Wellness Center); Rosie McSweeney (Student Conduct); Will Sowers (Public Safety); Lindsay Whipple (Housing & Dining Programs); David Fletcher (Career Center); Matt LaBrasseur (School of Public Affairs advisor); Michelle Doyle (Kogod advisor); Isaac Agbeshie-Noye (Center for Diversity & Inclusion); Malinda Morewatz (Athletics & Recreation); Isaac Thweatt (Alumni Relations)

The committee will be chaired by the new director of Student Activities, Dominic Greene. Dominic comes to AU from Northwestern University, where he was director of Fraternity & Sorority Life for eight years. The external review team will be on campus September 16-17; team members have not yet been selected.

Campus Climate Survey. We continue to evaluate campus climate survey instruments against the standards of the White House Task Force assessment tool kit. In the meantime we will administer the National College Health Assessment to all undergraduate and law students in April 2015. This national survey contains sections on Violence, Abusive Relationships and Personal Safety and on Sexual Behavior. In addition, AU Professor Jane Palmer will conduct her biennial survey of sexual violence, dating violence and bystander intervention on campus in March 2015. The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment will help coordinate this survey activity, and we welcome suggestions for how to most effectively share survey results with the campus community.

Campus Collaboration
Thank you to the many members of the AU community who are contributing to this important work to prevent sexual violence at AU and support victims/survivors. The final summer update will be issued in mid-August.