Dear University Community,
In a message on the first of July, I shared with you my deep concerns about allegations of sexual violence involving former and current University of South Florida students and some of our student organizations and departments. As we prepare for the fall semester, I wish to update you on our continued efforts to improve our prevention, support and outreach services, as well as reinforce our available reporting mechanisms.
Members of the university community are strongly encouraged to report allegations of sexual violence, or any other type of misconduct, through the university’s established processes. USF has resources in place, including the confidential offices of Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention and the USF Counseling Center. Official reporting of Title IX allegations can be made through the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, and University Police. Recognizing the importance of responding to and investigating allegations in a timely manner, we have also committed to investing new resources to hire two new staff members in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity.
We continually review our policies and procedures to ensure we’re following national best practices. Our response to any allegation is also shaped by our institutional values as outlined in USF’s Principles of Community developed in my first year as president.
Since my last message, I’ve been engaged in a valuable dialogue with faculty, staff and alumni activists about additional steps we will take to help all members of the USF community feel safe and supported. At my direction, members of USF’s Coordinated Community Response Team are coming together with leaders from several units across the university to further examine the resources available for current and future USF students and to offer suggestions to better address issues of sexual violence. This group, chaired by Professor Diane Price Herndl of Women’s and Gender Studies, includes representatives from the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, Student Conduct and Ethical Development, faculty from the criminology department and staff from our ombuds office. In its first meeting, our group is inviting current and former student activists to share their personal experiences, which will provide important context for further improvement. I am personally participating in these dialogues and requiring other administrators to do so as well.
Building on our existing programs, we will aggressively take additional actions to educate all members of the USF community about this issue. Currently, all first-year, transfer and graduate students must take an online sexual assault prevention training before they are allowed to register for classes. Student-athletes are required to participate in NCAA-developed sexual harassment and assault training, as well as a second training session conducted by our Title IX Office. Also, all new employees receive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) training during orientation, and new faculty receive Title IX Responsible Employee/VAWA training during their orientation. All USF athletics employees, members of the University Police Department and resident assistants also receive that training annually. All supervisors and academic instructors are required to repeat the training every other year.
The Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention and the Title IX Office are now developing a training program designed for members of fraternities and sororities. This will start during the fall semester and will include Title IX reporting and violence prevention workshops and a confidential forum in which members of each chapter may discuss their experiences. Also, the Title IX Office, working with several departments, will initiate a climate assessment within Greek Life that will inform further actions.
Additionally, advisors and executive members of fraternity and sorority councils, Student Government and other student groups will be trained this fall on their reporting obligations and bystander intervention techniques designed to prevent sexual violence.
It’s my belief that every member of the USF community shares the responsibility of providing a safe environment and upholding our values of respect, accountability and equity.
President and Professor