President Elizabeth Garrett responded to a report on campus sexual assault climate issued by the Association of American Universities in an email sent to the Cornell community Monday morning.
The results of the survey, which students at Cornell have access to, demonstrate what is being increasingly recognized across the country — that sexual assault is a national problem, according to Garrett’s statement.
Sexual violence affects entire communities, Garrett wrote. However, she added that college environments are distinct in their ability to impact student perspectives on sexual violence.
“Although parents, secondary schools and criminal justice and other public officials must play a significant role, colleges and universities are in a unique position to address sexual violence on our campuses and to affect the attitudes and behaviors of our students,” she wrote.
Cornell has invested “substantial attention and resources” in this effort, Garrett wrote, additionally noting the University’s “extensive sexual assault prevention and awareness programs.”
The University also recently announced changes to its sexual assault policy — Policy 6.4 — to bring Cornell’s policies in line with a new New York State law called “Enough is Enough,” providing additional protections for victims and transferring all sexual assault cases out of the Judicial Administrator’s office to the Workforce Policy Office.
However, referencing the response data from the 3,906 Cornell students included in the AAU survey, Garrett emphasized that “there is still more work to be done” on Cornell’s campus. The AAU report comes months after Cornell was included on a list of 116 postsecondary institutions with open investigations into potential Title IX violations, The Sun previously reported.
In the statement, Garrett outlined three central aspects of the University’s response. “We are committed to providing students with comprehensive and effective consent and prevention education, including bystander education and targeted efforts throughout the time a student attends Cornell; to dedicating significant resources to education and disciplinary activities; and to using fair and transparent investigation and adjudication processes.”
Ryan Lombardi, the new vice president for student and campus life, has started a review of the systems and processes already in place, with plans to incorporate student governance institutions and student organizations in the evaluation — and, later, improvement — of university procedures, according to Garrett. The University also hopes to work more closely with the Council for Sexual Violence Prevention — a group comprised of students, faculty and community service providers — to strengthen their resource offerings, Garrett’s statement read.
“Our community is committed to creating a safer, more caring campus culture,” Garrett said. “The AAU survey reminds us that our work continues.”