Sexual assault prevention and response

May 2, 2014

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

This week has been especially important for college campuses across the nation.  Growing awareness about the problem of sexual assaults on campuses and welcome discussions on how to prevent and appropriately address such assaults when they occur gained significant momentum with the release of “Not Alone.” “Not Alone” is the first report from a White House task force formed in January 2014 to provide recommendations for educational institutions on how to protect students from sexual assault.  Brown will benefit from this report and its associated guidelines in the planned review of our policies and procedures related to sexual assault, which I mentioned in my letter to the community last weekend.

Simply put, our goal is to move Brown to a position of national leadership for prevention, advocacy, and response to issues of sexual assault.  This will require having policies and programs that are sensitive to the diversity of our student population.  As a first step, and to ensure that we are able to meet the accelerated schedule identified for this review, Brown will consult over the summer with experts working on campus sexual assault nationally to assess current policies, procedures, and programs and provide us with information on prevention, student support, and discipline, and alignment of our policies with recently issued federal guidelines.  As part of their work, consultants will engage with students, faculty and administrative staff to determine best practices for prevention, education and training, providing student support and enhancing the effectiveness of disciplinary procedures.

This background work will inform the Brown University Task Force on Sexual Assault, which will begin its work in fall 2014.  The Task Force will be composed of faculty, administrators, undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. It will be co-chaired by Dr. Michele Cyr and Russell Carey. Michele Cyr, an internist who specializes in women’s health, is professor of medicine and associate dean for academic affairs at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine. Russell Carey, a Brown alumnus and attorney, is currently executive vice president for policy and planning at Brown and served previously as the vice president for campus life and student services.  The Undergraduate Council of Students, the Graduate Student Council, and the Medical Student Senate will be charged with overseeing the selection of student representatives.  The full membership of the Task Force will be announced in September. Task Force recommendations will be due no later than December 2014. The charge for the Task Force can be viewed here.

We do not intend to wait for the assessment by external experts or the Task Force recommendations to take action. We are reviewing the new White House guidelines to identify changes to our policies and practices that could be made immediately.  We are meeting with and listening to input from our students, who have formulated recommendations, informed by the White House guidelines, which are already shaping our efforts.  Their recommendations will also be forwarded to the Task Force for consideration. Several suggestions will be accepted immediately:

  • Brown will hire a single full-time Title IX coordinator. Currently, Title IX responsibilities fall to three staff members who have other duties as well.  We anticipate that this consolidation of responsibilities will strengthen Brown’s policies and programs.
  • We will devote additional resources for prevention programs and education around sexual assault that takes place during student orientation—starting in the fall of 2014—and throughout the year.
  • We will collaborate with other universities to develop a campus climate survey that measures the incidence of sexual violence and student perceptions about assault. The White House report recommends that this survey be conducted in the winter or spring of each academic year.

I want to thank members of the Brown community, and especially the students that have been working on these issues, for their constructive recommendations. I am confident that the steps we have outlined will provide the safest possible environment for our students.

Sincerely,

Christina H. Paxson

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Christina H. Paxson
President
Professor of Economics and Public Affairs
Brown University