In a press release last Thursday, West Virginia University announced it would join 20 other colleges and universities in a national effort to end sexual violence on campus.
The Culture of Respect Collective Program guides institutions of higher education through a “rigorous process of self-assessment and targeted organizational change.” The Collective’s fifth and newest group of higher-educational institutions, including WVU, launched this January.
“We continue to look for new ways to improve procedures, effectively investigate complaints, hold appropriate disciplinary proceedings, and provide adequate sanctions for violations of policy,” said James Goins Jr., WVU's Director of Equity Assurance and Title IX Coordinator, in the press release. “Joining the Culture of Respect Collective gives WVU an opportunity to evaluate ourselves and continue our efforts to use best practice to improve our efforts.”
This semester, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at WVU developed a “Campus Leadership Team” comprised of representatives from Title IX, University Police, Student Conduct, Student Engagement, WellWVU, Center for Fraternal Values and Leadership, the LGBTQ+ Center, University Relations, Diversity Outreach and Community Engagement and the Peer Advocate Program among others.
Through cross-campus collaboration, the team aims to end sex and gender-based violence and harassment at WVU.
As reported by the Collective, 1-in-4 female and 1-in-14 male undergraduates are sexually assaulted during their time away at college, and transgender students face an even greater chance of victimization.
Sexual assault isn’t the only issue plaguing university campuses; 10% of students in relationships reported experiencing intimate partner violence, according to the Culture of Respect Collective.
Having already met four times this semester, the Campus Leadership Team is currently conducting a self-assessment of the University’s policies and resources in place to combat sexual violence.
According to the Division’s prevention education team, WVU will be evaluated based on the following areas: survivor support, clear policies, multi-tiered education, public disclosures, schoolwide mobilization and ongoing assessments.
From there, the Team will continue to assess the University in any areas in need of improvement.
“The more people are on the same page and moving in the same direction, the more effective WVU will be in maintaining a safe campus community,” said Amy Kittle, assistant director for Prevention and Education, in a press release. “WVU has an amazing prevention education team whose efforts will only be amplified when working in concert with leaders from across campus.”
In 2015, 97% of colleges and universities in a national study had Title IX policies in place, but only 61% reported using comprehensive programs to prevent campus sexual violence, according to the Collective.
A more recent study of 75 different colleges and universities found that only 17% of those institutions’ websites included a link to Title IX resources on the homepage.
These are just a handful of issues the Collective is seeking to improve.
When looking at recent studies conducted by the Collective, institutions in the program have witnessed an improvement in both prevention and response to campus sexual violence — 77% saw increased collaboration between departments and colleagues.
WVU, like other participating institutions, will receive support and documentation of campus-initiated changes from the Collective throughout the process.
“We joined the Culture of Respect Collective to be part of a movement of schools working together to address sexual violence nationwide,” Goins said in the press release. “Having an established baseline will allow us to easily identify gaps and plan for programming that will be more inclusive and more impactful to our campus community.”