November 23, 2014

New Faculty, Staff Required to Take Sexual Assault Response Course

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All new faculty and staff will be required to complete an online training course on how to respond to sexual violence, harassment and discrimination, the University announced Thursday.

The course — titled “Building a Culture of Respect: Responding to Sexual Violence, Harassment and Discrimination” — is designed to welcome “people of all backgrounds” and make them feel safe, according to a University press release.

Some of the topics covered in the course include sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking prevention and how to file complaints, according to the University.

While only new faculty and staff members are required to complete the course, the University “hope[s] and expect[s]” that current faculty and staff members will take it as well, according to the course website.

“As members of the Cornell community, we all share the responsibility for creating a safer, more caring campus culture inwhich bias, harassment and violence have no place,” Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources, and Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice president for Student and academic services, said in the press release.

Yamini Bhandari ’17, vice president for outreach and women’s representative for the S.A., said she feels it is important for faculty and staff to receive these trainings because the issues surrounding sexual harrassment “are not limited to students.”

“Sexual harassment can happen in classroom settings, and often goes undetected because there is little understanding on how to properly address these situations,” she said. “Hopefully this initiative can help faculty and staff be cognizant of these issues and where to report them.”

Bhandari added that she hopes the program will help “shift the mindset of people to feel more comfortable reporting incidences of sexual violence, and understand the resources that are available to them.”

“I would like [the University] to really measure the effectiveness of these measures and ensure that it doesn’t turn into some of the other online courses that are required for students, which have not been effective at curbing behavior,” she said.

Juliana Batista ’16, executive vice president of the S.A., said the new program is “one of step of many that need to be taken to educate our community on how to address Title IX issues.”

“Understanding, sensitivity and bystander intervention are of the utmost importance,” she said. “It is important that faculty and staff undergo this training because as a university leading in this field, we need to ensure that all members of our community are safe.”

The program is part of a University-wide effort to ensure that the community can “identify potential acts of sexual violence and know who to contact and consult about it,” according to the course website.

The University also recently updated its Sexual Harassment and Assault-Response and Education website with information on how Cornell is addressing sexual assault and domestic violence, according to the University.