May 4, 2017: Presidential Committee on Sexual Misconduct
As another successful academic year at Creighton comes to an end this week, we celebrate all that has been accomplished and wish our seniors much success as the class of 2017 prepares to graduate. Together, we have also had difficult, but necessary, conversations this year regarding societal issues that are omnipresent on all college campuses, including our own University.
As you are likely aware, in February, I appointed a committee of faculty, staff, and students to review Creighton’s policies and procedures regarding sexual and relationship misconduct. Chaired by College of Nursing Dean Catherine Todero, PhD, and David Weber, JD, senior associate dean in the School of Law, the committee has reviewed wide-ranging information on sexual assault policies, heard from off-campus experts, and explored how we should address the many complex issues that arise.
I am grateful that the policy review committee was both thoughtful and diligent as members reviewed our considerable efforts to prevent violence and how we respond when it does occur, and I am, of course, thankful for the ongoing time and attention of the committee.
To be clear, Creighton University does not tolerate sexual assault, and every member of the campus community has the right to feel safe from the threat of sexual violence. In recent years, the University has made great strides in strengthening our outreach to individuals on campus through violence prevention initiatives, education, services, and counseling.
In 2011, the “Dear Colleague Letter” was issued by the U.S. Department of Education, which provided guidance to universities that sexual assault was the most severe form of sexual harassment and must be treated as a violation of Title IX, which was promulgated in 1972. As a result, universities were charged with redesigning their adjudication process for sexual misconduct to ensure a fair, prompt, and impartial investigation.
That same year, Creighton created the Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center and, in 2012, the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) to meet the directives of the letter and better serve campus. In addition, policies regarding sexual and relationship misconduct have been updated several times since the VIP Center and the OEI were established, and the University added a full-time investigator and second advocate in the past 18 months. In 2015-2016, the VIP Center served 146 individuals.
As to the extensive efforts of the policy review committee, education and training in many forms and to varied audiences has surfaced as a critical focal point going forward. I anticipate recommendations for enlarging and enhancing established training procedures for students, faculty, and staff to raise awareness of sexual misconduct, including bystander intervention, as key to our efforts to prevent future incidents or conduct a thorough investigation when an assault is reported. I also expect to receive recommendations for the University’s definition of consent, in addition to policy changes that provide more transparency to the investigative process.
The policy review committee concludes its work on Friday, May 5, following a final meeting of its members. As this is an important conversation that must never cease, I anticipate creating a new advisory group to assist in our ongoing desire to improve the way we implement the University’s mission.
As a Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher learning, and with a community that believes in the inalienable worth of each individual, I am committed to strengthening our sexual misconduct policies, providing additional support to violence prevention efforts, and doing everything we can to stop sexual assault on our campus.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ