Editorial: On college campuses faculty must participate in discussions on safety
To support campus prevention efforts — on sexual assault, hazing, drug abuse, etc. — universities must recognize that every campus community member has to be involved.
Most prevention efforts to combat student issues like relationship violence, alcohol abuse, drug addiction, etc., are facilitated by student affairs offices or college health centers that distribute literature or offer lectures.
At the UA, Campus Health Service offers a number of programs through its Health Promotion and Preventive Services, including the Oasis Program, which aims to reduce sexual assault. In general, these services are aimed almost exclusively at students.
But prevention experts are turning to more comprehensive approaches to preventing crimes like sexual assault on campus. Including faculty in a conversation that typically involves student affairs officials and students was a focal point of last month’s annual conference of SCOPE: School and College Organization of Prevention Educators, said executive director Michelle N. Issadore.
Working with faculty is the “holy grail” for prevention educators because of their relationship with students, Issadore said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “It reinforces the notion that prevention is important.”
Last month, Amherst College’s Board of Trustees promised to combat a campus culture that critics characterized as misogynistic and sexist. The college came under fire in early October after the student newspaper published an op-ed by a former student, who alleged that she had been sexually assaulted and that administrators swept her case under the rug.
In May, the U.S. Justice Department opened multiple investigations into the handling of sexual assault allegations at the University of Montana, in its hometown of Missoula. The university, the Missoula Police Department and the county attorney came under fire for how it handled at least 11 reported sexual assaults involving UM students over an 18-month period.
Several cases involved allegations against football players, and the university fired its athletic director and head football coach in March.
Situations like those occur on every college campus, and they only describe reported assaults. According to Department of Justice statistics from 2000, 95 percent of attacks go unreported.
In a statement, Amherst’s Board of Trustees said university President Biddy Martin “has made it clear that the issue of sexual misconduct and assault is of the highest priority.”
After the op-ed written by the rape survivor went viral, Martin told students that “some of you talked to me last year, and said you thought the College’s policies, procedures and practices were not adequate, or that they had problems that prevented you from coming forward,” according to the Amherst Student.
Involving faculty in prevention efforts sends a message to students that they do matter, and authority figures in their lives can be relied on when they need them most. Additionally, involving faculty makes them more aware of the issues, which are not necessarily limited to students and may also affect campus employees.
Programs like “Don’t Cancel That Class,” through which faculty can schedule prevention lectures when they know in advance or at the last minute that they cannot make a class they’re scheduled to teach, enable faculty to take initiative in campus prevention efforts.
Similarly, the UA’s Campus Health Service’s website lets users request presentations on alcohol and drugs, relationship violence, sexual assault and other issues.
Most students don’t regularly see health and prevention educators half as often as they see professors, with whom they’re more likely to form a solid relationship and trust. Faculty, at the UA and universities across the country, have more influence in students’ lives than people realize, and they have a responsibility to use their power to create solutions.
— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Bethany Barnes, Kristina Bui, Jason Krell and Alex Williams. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .