UW Today

May 8, 2014

UW regents briefed on efforts to address sexual assault prevention, response

News and Information

The leader of a University of Washington task force on the issue of sexual assault prevention and response Thursday briefed the UW Board of Regents on implementing recommendations on all three UW campuses.

The issue gained the national spotlight last week with a White House special report aimed at preventing sexual assaults on college campuses nationwide and a Department of Education-issued list of higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of laws on sexual assault reporting.

Ellen B. Taylor, assistant vice president for Student Life and director of the UW Counseling Center, briefed the Board of Regents on the status of 18 detailed recommendations from an in-depth task force report completed in October 2013.

“It maps really nicely onto the recommendations that came out of the White House report, so we’re a little bit ahead of the curve. We’re still early in the implementation,” she said.

Taylor on Thursday described to UW Regents additional steps that can be implemented to create a safe campus environment and to make UW a national leader in addressing the issue.

In spring 2013, UW President Michael K. Young commissioned the Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, headed by Taylor, to help the university show national leadership on the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

“University policies and procedures alone cannot stop sexual assault in our community. Each of us – each faculty member, staff member, and student –has a powerful role to play and a duty to act,” Young wrote to the UW community earlier this year.

Some of the recommendations in the report already are being implemented, while others await preparatory work or funding, Taylor said.

The recommendations involve a variety of initiatives, but the piece she is most enthused by is a focus on education and training, including the hiring of a training and education coordinator.

Training would begin with freshman orientation because of a particularly high risk of sexual assault in the first weeks of a student’s college career. Follow-up sessions, each building on previous sessions and using multiple strategies to engage students, would occur several more times during the student’s first year, with additional training in later years of college and for graduate and professional students as well.

“If we’re going to change the culture, it has to be that. It can’t be just the 101 course, it has to be the full comprehensive package,” Taylor said.

The UW task force recommendations:

  • Ensure an easily accessible network of response and intervention services for students in need.
  • Educate all students about sexual assault.
  • Foster the ability to respond and provide support among the entire university community.
  • Provide an investigation and discipline process appropriate for sexual assault.
  • Demonstrate compliance with federal and state laws.
  • Gather appropriate information to support sound decision-making.
  • Establish clear codes of conduct and policies related to sexual assault.
  • Provide oversight to guide the implementation of the task force recommendations.

The work of the task force signals the university’s commitment to making sure every student is safe and feels supported, said Kiana Scott, who is the student member of the Board of Regents and was instrumental in arranging for Thursday’s report.

“I am tremendously proud of the effort and focus we have dedicated to prevention, education, and awareness of sexual assault, and know that the recommendations will have significant beneficial impact for students at UW,” she said.

The White House last week issued its “Not Alone” report aimed at reducing sexual assault on campuses nationwide, and Taylor said the recommendations from the UW task force are close to those in the White House report.

Also last week, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights listed 55 higher education institutions being investigated for possible violations of federal law in the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. The UW is not on that list, and Taylor noted that institutions on the list haven’t necessarily done anything wrong.

She believes that, with the new national focus on the issue, the UW is in a good position.

“It does take an investment of time and energy and resources on the university’s part,” she said. “If we can effectively implement the task force recommendations, there is the potential that this could become a model.”

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For more information, contact Taylor at 206-543-1240 or ebtaylor@uw.edu.