Sexual assault awareness, training, new initiatives and fraternities review
posted Sept. 16, 2021
A message to the Eastern Michigan University community from President James M. Smith:
Like so many colleges campuses, our campus community faces the significant and ongoing challenge of sexual violence and assault. This new school year, it is imperative for us, as a campus community, to reinforce our values on this important topic, outline the steps we are taking to keep our community safe, and to renew our commitment to always doing more.
Our University values, and my personal commitment, on this issue are straightforward and unwavering: Eastern Michigan University dedicates itself to preventing sexual assault on our campus and, more broadly, to providing a safe and supportive community that allows every student to achieve their academic and life goals.
The University is keenly aware of the recent concerns expressed by some students and others regarding their safety and the University’s handling of cases of sexual assault. I take those concerns with utmost seriousness because any failure to ensure that our students feel safe is inconsistent with our institutional values. No student can learn in an environment where they are unsafe.
Any commitment rings hollow, however, unless it is supported by action.
EMU has numerous programs and policies in place designed to prevent sexual assault, support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and increase awareness of this important issue. With the start of a new school year, we are also launching new initiatives to further these goals.
These initiatives include:
- Required annual Title IX training for students
- Expanded bystander training program
- A survivors handbook will be distributed that includes information about how to work with the Title IX Office and how to support survivors of sexual assault
- A new resource guide for employees addressing how to file a Title IX report and communicate with survivors
- Training modules for employees about trauma-informed approaches that support survivors
- Clery Act training for 100+ University administrators
- The “Care for Survivors” program, that helps students provide peer-to-peer support to help others through trauma
Additionally, our Department of Public Safety (DPS) has numerous initiatives to support students and enhance campus safety. Many of our officers are Eastern graduates and they are passionate about working hand-in-hand with students. Their work includes:
- Regular training for officers about how to investigate sexual assault allegations and support survivors
- Over 1,000 security cameras throughout campus
- Numerous safety and crime prevention programs, including a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program (a series of RAD courses began last week and the next series begins next month)
- The Student Eyes and Ears for University Safety (SEEUS) program is returning. SEEUS, which is staffed by students, is available to escort students or employees on campus during late-night hours.
Actions to support our values are critical, but we must also hold individuals and organizations accountable if they do not meet our high standards.
Our DPS investigates every claim of sexual assault it receives. The final decision about whether to pursue criminal charges in a particular case is made by the County Prosecutor, and the DPS supports the Prosecutor’s work.
The University has initiated a review into complaints by individuals and organizations made against two fraternities, Delta Tau Delta and Alpha Sigma Phi. This process includes an evaluation of the fraternities’ future status on our campus. The University takes this process very seriously. We have a robust policy framework to guide this review and are moving aggressively.
And I want to make clear that any employee with an obligation to report sexual assault must do so and will face disciplinary action if they abrogate that responsibility.
EMU’s campus is a safe place. But as long as any student lives in fear of sexual assault, we have critical work to do. We will not rest on our laurels; we will not stop searching for ways to improve our processes, our safety practices, our outreach, and our training. And as part of that work, we will continue to update the campus to improve awareness and understanding of these issues. Title IX and safety programs are vitally important, but their utility is diminished if our community does not know about them. Our commitment to awareness and transparency is not a one-time effort. This will remain an institutional priority in the weeks, months and years ahead.
James Smith, Ph.D.