January 10, 2014
Ending the problem of sexual assault
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
I am writing to address a matter of great and grave importance.
One of my hopes, as 2014 begins, is that this will be the year we collectively resolve to lead the way to ending the chronic and abhorrent problem of sexual assault on college campuses. While we can be grateful that the UW has historically been a very safe campus, we also know that any sexual assault does grievous harm to the victim and serious collateral damage to the rest of the community. I am convinced that the University of Washington can be a model for changing a nationwide culture that is perceived by some as tolerating this kind of interpersonal violence. And we should act now, without waiting for a specific incident to be the catalyst.
Some significant part of the responsibility to end sexual assault rests with the institution itself, and we are determined to succeed. We must have policies and resources in place that will help prevent sexual assault and ensure that we properly respond to all incidents. Last spring I commissioned a group of University academic personnel, staff, and students to come together as a Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response to review our current policies and practices, explore best practices from other institutions, develop any needed new practices, and propose an implementation plan. In October, the Task Force submitted a very thorough report with 18 prioritized recommendations. Provost Ana Mari Cauce and I have approved funding for the first set of steps, and there will be more information and increased visibility for these efforts in the coming months.
But 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. If any of us—any of us—see a friend engaging in unsafe behavior, we must intervene. If a colleague shows an unwillingness to respect “no” when this message is delivered, we must speak up. And when any of us hear of an incident, we must support the victim and encourage him or her to make a report to authorities. These actions make an enormous difference.
Thank you for the many ways in which every one of us contributes to the health and wellbeing of the University of Washington community. Together, we must support one another. I formally request that each one of us reviews and then enacts the recommendations as part of our commitment to care for our community. Let us now join together to tackle the problem of sexual assault and show national leadership.
Michael K. Young