By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
The University of Mary Washington’s Title IX coordinator is ready to enact a new policy that will change how the student body perceives sexual misconduct and preventative education.
The update was presented at the latest Board of Visitors meeting on April 16 by Leah Cox, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion and Title IX coordinator.
According to the update, faculty and the school administration are required to follow legislative law meant for all Virginia colleges and universities in instances of sexual assault. The bill SB 712, which was enacted on April 15, requires any responsible employee of a university to report instances of sexual assault to the institution’s Title IX coordinator as soon as he or she is able.
The Title IX coordinator reports to a review committee that includes a law enforcement representative and a student affairs representative within 72 hours. The committee will only disclose information to a law enforcement agency if the committee determines that disclosure is necessary for the health and safety of the survivor of sexual assault or of other students.
The second bill, HB 1785, requires that campus police force and a law-enforcement agency create a mutual aid agreement. In instances of sexual violence, either the campus police force or the law-enforcement agency must notify the local attorney of the Commonwealth within 48 hours of beginning any investigation involving felony criminal sexual assault on campus property or property related to the institution. The bill also applies to colleges that have security departments instead of a police force.
While the two bills will take effect on campus, the update may have potential changes for students.
All students at the university will be required to complete a one-credit course or program about sexual violence prevention. In addition, all students clubs will undergo training and athletic teams will go through prevention and bystander training every year.
The bystander intervention training will also extend to first-year students, who will be given the training during orientation. Open forums for all students regarding sexual assault or related topics will be held each year.
In addition, emergency information will be printed on all ID cards. And, when possible, print material from UMW will replace “victim” with “survivor” in regards to someone who had gone through sexual assault.
To regulate these changes, the University will potentially hire a full-time sexual assault and response coordinator.
Claire Zhang, junior and biology major, agrees that the one-credit class will spread awareness about sexual assault to students.
“I think the class is important because I know a lot of people aren’t as educated about sexual assault as they should,” Zhang said.
Similarly, Courtney Whitehead, junior creative writing major, believes having a full-time staff member to work with sexual assault response would be beneficial for the campus, but is unsure that the class will help students who would potentially act on sexual assault.
“I think it’s a good idea to hire someone to work with these issues, but I’m not sure if a class would stop someone from doing something like that,” Whitehead said.
In addition to the potential changes for students, UMW may take action based on researching consent policies from universities such as the University of Virginia, and policies regarding sexual assault from Longwood University, Christopher Newport University, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University and James Madison University.
To aid students who have experienced sexual assault, trauma therapy will be provided by Talley Center therapists. Survivors will also have access to peer-led support groups and non-police options. Workshops will be provided for all staff and faculty on how to support students who experienced sexual violence.
The update is planned to be discussed further and possibly voted for approval or disapproval at the next Board of Visitors meeting.