Indiana University launches comprehensive Student Welfare Initiative
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As students get ready for the fall 2014 semester, Indiana University announced its Student Welfare Initiative, aimed at coordinating and intensifying efforts across the seven campuses administered by IU to prevent and respond to sexual assault and all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct and to support the safety and well-being of students.
Executive Vice President for University Academic Affairs John S. Applegate, Vice President and General Counsel Jacqueline Simmons and Associate General Counsel Emily Springston explained the initiative today at a meeting of the IU Board of Trustees.
The effort responds to a Commitment to Student Welfare statement, adopted by the trustees in April, insisting on a safe campus environment, a robust university culture that rejects sexual assault, and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. It establishes a new organizational structure while coordinating and bringing together policies and procedures at the university level.
“The safety and well-being of our students, as well as everyone in the Indiana University community, is our highest priority," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "Preventing and addressing sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility, and this initiative will increase our focus on this most serious issue.
"The new structure will provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach and will access our wide variety of resources in the areas of administration and research. All members of the IU community must embrace a culture that allows students to pursue their education with confidence in their personal safety.”
The Student Welfare Initiative helps ensure IU’s responsiveness to the federal laws, including Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act, which require institutions of higher education to take action to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence and harassment, as well as to increase transparency, accountability and education on these issues. It aligns with the White House’s Not Alone initiative, a nationwide effort to raise awareness and take action against the pervasiveness of sexual assault on college campuses.
To carry out the initiative, IU is establishing a structure that includes:
- A Student Welfare Executive Council, made up of top-level university administrators, to ensure that student welfare is a priority at the highest levels of university and campus administrations. Simmons will chair the council, and Applegate will be vice chair.
- A Student Welfare Compliance Coordinator, who will coordinate university activities related to prevention of sexual assault, ensuring regulatory compliance, and providing consistency among policies, procedures and communications.
- A Student Welfare Compliance Committee to work with and support the coordinator, with an emphasis on compliance, information and communication. It will include 30 staff, faculty and students charged with fulfilling IU’s student welfare commitments.
- A Senior Student Affairs Officers Council, composed of deans and vice chancellors of student affairs on the seven IU-administered campuses, which will meet regularly to share information and experiences.
- A Student Welfare Research Roundtable, chaired by Sarita Soni, professor emeritus of optometry and vision science, which will bring together 15 or more faculty members engaged in research on sexual assault, prevention, victim support and related subjects.
“The Student Welfare Initiative will help Indiana University achieve greater coordination and communication of its efforts, and provide more effective prevention and response to incidents of sexual assault, violence and harassment,” said Simmons, the IU vice president and university counsel. “We are giving the highest priority to complying with all laws and regulations, protecting the well-being of our students, and providing them more support and services.”
As part of the initiative, a university website will launch this month to provide a single point of access for information about sexual assault and university and campus resources, as well as contact information for officials and staff charged with addressing the issue and implementing IU initiatives. Campuses are undertaking public awareness campaigns that include putting up posters in academic buildings and residence halls and giving increased attention to sexual assault prevention during new-student orientation sessions.
While many policies and practices have been in place at IU campuses for addressing sexual assault, the Student Welfare Initiative will improve coordination, provide better consistency and facilitate clearer intra-campus and inter-campus communication.
Indiana University Bloomington is currently undergoing a routine compliance review by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights regarding its handling of reports of sexual harassment and assault. The Office for Civil Rights told campus officials that IU Bloomington was one of several institutions selected for such a review, not on the basis of any complaint, but based on size, geographic location and type of campus.