March 1, 2013

After Reports of Sexual Assault, Cornell Will Centralize Resources for Victims

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Cornell will work toward the centralization of resources for victims of sexual assault and bias, University President David Skorton said in an email sent to the Cornell community Thursday.

In the email, Skorton lauded the work of the Incident Management Team, a group of staff and faculty that prepared a report addressing reports of sexual assault and violence on and near Cornell’s campus in the fall. The report emphasized the need for “better coordination, communication and commitment to shared goals, strategies and priorities” in addressing these incidents.

“The lack of coordination, clear communication, ongoing assessment of needs and strategies and prioritizing of resources has obscured both current strengths and critical gaps in what [resources and services are] provided,” the report said.

To that end, the report called for the creation of a “virtual” center to provide a “coordinated response” to incidents of sexual violence. The center, the report said, would employ a director to oversee its consolidated services, as well as two part-time staff members to address its goals of providing information and support to victims of sexual assault as well as to the community at large.

The report also called for the creation of a University-wide committee to address sexual violence –– a coalition that would aim to “foster cultural change, reduce risks and increase support for members of the community affected by sexual violence.”

In the email, Skorton emphasized the report’s recommendation that the University Diversity Council, a group charged with promoting diversity throughout Cornell, also work toward preventing incidents of sexual violence and bias.

“I am asking the UDC to support Provost [Kent] Fuchs and me in working with each dean and vice president to enhance our collective efforts to prevent both bias and sexual misconduct,” Skorton said in the email.

Skorton said he will consider the recommendations as the University moves forward in addressing reports of sexual violence from the fall.

“The group’s recommendations –– from enhanced services and enforcement to improved communications and educational outreach –– are being evaluated and, as they are ready, implemented to strengthen the University’s existing programs for the prevention of both sexual misconduct and all forms of bias throughout our community,” Skorton said in the email.

Skorton noted that the implementation of the recommendations will call for the help officials from “the highest levels of the University,” including Fuchs and Vice President of Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73, as well as college deans and vice presidents.

Despite University initiatives –– including programming on sexual misconduct for incoming students during Orientation Week and a sexual assault resource website –– already being developed and implemented in response to the reports, Skorton stressed the need for a continued campus-wide focus on combating sexual violence and bias at Cornell.

“Despite this clear progress, persistent issues on campus and continuing feedback from our community have convinced me that we have far yet to go,” Skorton said in the email. “I call on everyone in our community to engage in self-reflection, examine the issues and join us in efforts to eiminate sexual misconduct and all forms of bias from our campus community.”

Original Author: Kerry Close