ETSU is using several new programs and educational tools this semester to place greater focus on preventing sexual assault on campus.
“This is something the administration has been looking at for a while now,” said Kate Emmerich, coordinator of ETSU’s Outreach and Advocacy Sexuality Information for Students program.
“But it has really come into the spotlight this past semester because we had four sexual assault reports on campus compared to I think zero or one the year before.”
Emmerich said the university’s approach to combating sexual assault came partially from the recommendations made by a sexual assault prevention task force created by President Barack Obama in 2014.
The university is taking steps this semester to educate the student body about sexual assault and determine the quality of information students have received about sexual assault prevention.
ETSU will be using an online training module this spring to educate undergraduate students on sexual violence prevention. The university hopes to expand this initiative to include graduate students in the fall.
ETSU will also receive a visit this month from Jackson Katz, a well-known male activist, who will be delivering a keynote address at 8 p.m. Jan. 25 in the D.P. Culp University Center.
“The idea of that is to kind of kickoff involvement of men in preventing this stuff and being active bystanders when they hear and see things that contribute to sexual and gender violence,” Emmerich said.
“The hope is that in the future this move will lead into creating some sort of men’s leadership training program on campus.”
Katz will also be meeting with senior leadership and male student leaders to discuss possible methods of preventing sexual violence at ETSU.
The university’s administration will also be conducting an anonymous sexual assault climate survey this spring to assess students’ knowledge of ETSU’s safety resources and policies.
The survey will also ask students about the degree to which they’ve been exposed to sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Sherlin said the results of this survey will inform the decision making process of the university’s sexual misconduct leadership team, a committee composed of faculty, staff members and student representatives.
“We want to see how our students feel about our environment here at ETSU and how we compare to other campuses,” Sherlin said.
“That will give the sexual misconduct leadership team data so we can make decisions about where we need to address issues, where we need to improve and also what’s working well.”
The sexual misconduct leadership team is charged with ensuring the university’s policies fulfill the intentions advanced by Obama’s sexual assault prevention task force and laws like the Violence Against Women Act.
Emmerich said the sexual misconduct leadership committee aims to make an enduring change to perception of sexual violence.
“There are all sorts of ideas that some of us on the SMLT [sexual misconduct leadership team] committee have for what we could do moving forward that is not only a really fun, exciting event but also makes sustainable change on campus,” Emmerich said.
“I think that’s the key: figuring out policy and figuring out how to invest resources in things that will actually change the campus climate.”