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HomeArchivesEmerson College Establishes Bold New Program to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Assault

Emerson College Establishes Bold New Program to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Assault

(September 2, 2014) BOSTON, MA—Emerson College announced today the establishment of a bold, comprehensive new program to help prevent sexual assaults and to change how the College will handle complaints of sexual assault in the future.

In a letter to the Emerson community, President Lee Pelton said that the new program was developed through recommendations made by a College-wide Sexual Assault Task Force established in fall 2013, and by the nationally recognized campus safety consulting firm of Margolis Healy & Associates.

“When students’ engagement in their education is so severely disrupted by sexual misconduct and violence, they cannot perform at their highest level and they are deprived of their access to the fullness and richness of their education at the College,” President Pelton wrote. “We believe our new approach to be forward-leaning: we are implementing emerging best practices and standards in the area of preventing and responding to sexual assault and believe that our new program will serve as a model for other colleges and universities.”

Since 2011, best practices in sexual assault prevention and response have been evolving rapidly, at Emerson and beyond, including new guidelines from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The new program includes wide-ranging initiatives in the following five areas:

  • Providing care and support to the survivors of sexual assault and other forms of power-based violence
  • Preventing sexual assaults through education
  • Adjudicating complaints of sexual assault
  • Enhancing training for faculty, staff, and students
  • Conducting biennial climate surveys
Providing care and support to the survivors of sexual assault
  • Established the Office of Violence Prevention and Response under the leadership of Dr. Melanie Matson, who was recently appointed to serve in the newly created position of Director of Violence Prevention and Response/Survivor Advocate. This new office will provide confidential support services to survivors, coordinate the provision of academic or residential accommodations, and guide the development and implementation of the College’s relationship violence prevention efforts.
  • Launched a search for the newly created position of Survivor Advocate, who will work with Dr. Matson in providing confidential services to survivors and expand Emerson’s prevention programs.
  • Launched a search for the newly created position of Associate Vice President and Title IX & Clery Act Coordinator, who will report to the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and will have primary responsibility for overseeing the College’s Title IX efforts and will serve as a central resource for all constituencies on the wide range of issues addressed by Title IX and the Clery Act.
  • Created a role for a professional investigator to conduct investigations of cases involving sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and stalking. This individual will have investigatory experience and will help to ensure that reports are thoroughly investigated and resolved in a timely manner.
  • Established Deputy Title IX faculty and staff Coordinators, who will serve as liaisons to the various campus units and work collaboratively with the Title IX Coordinator to review policies and practices for effectiveness. All deputies will receive appropriate training.
  • Created a Title IX Team that includes the Title IX Coordinator, the deputies, the Director of Violence Prevention and Response, the Dean of Students, the Chief of Emerson College Police, and other College staff. This group will work to ensure that our systems and processes are working efficiently. The Director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Response retains responsibility for the provision of direct services to survivors.
Preventing sexual assaults through education
  • Launched an informational website for the Office of Violence Prevention and Response and developed a violence prevention campaign in support of Emerson STANDS (Stand Together-Act Now-Do Something), a program which encourages students to intervene when they sense a social situation may be heading in a direction in which unwanted sexual activity might become likely. Emerson STANDS is funded, in part by, a grant from the Avon Foundation for Women.
  • Established a unified Sexual Misconduct Policy. The policy provides community members with definitions of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct; a statement on consent; emergency and non-emergency reporting options; College and community resources; confidential resources; the rights of survivors; the time frame for reporting complaints; College coordination with law enforcement; amnesty for students who report sexual misconduct; a statement against retaliation; provision of interim measures; academic, employment and residence modifications; the Title IX complaint process; and the timeframe for the resolution of cases.
Adjudicating complaints of sexual assault
  • Established a special process for the adjudication of cases involving sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and stalking. The new process is structured to reduce the re-traumatization of survivors, support the timely resolution of cases, and ensure fairness and consistency in the disciplinary process.
  • Established a single investigator model, in which the professional investigator reviews reports of sexual misconduct under the supervision of the AVP Title IX and Clery Act Coordinator and determines whether there has been a violation of the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. This will put the fact-finding mission into the hands of a trained investigator, reducing any additional stress and trauma among the complainants, and will provide a consistent and professional process toward moving to a resolution.  If the professional investigator finds that a violation of the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy has occurred, then the case is forwarded to a Sanctions Panel, who will determine the appropriate sanction. The three-person Sanctions Panel will be made up of staff and faculty and will be chaired by a senior college administrator.
Enhancing training for faculty, staff, and students
  • Will develop position or role specific training and education programs to prepare Emerson faculty, staff, and students to respond appropriately to reports of sexual assault.
Conducting biennial campus climate surveys
  • Will conduct a biennial campus climate survey to assess the community’s knowledge of policies and resources related to sexual assault, students’ attitudes about prevention, and their perceptions about how the College is addressing the problem of sexual violence. This survey will also assist the College in obtaining more accurate information about the prevalence of sexual assault on our campus as well as assess campus climate broadly for all members of the Community. Data obtained from the survey will inform the development of new training and education programs for the Emerson community.

About Emerson College

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the historic Boston Common and in the heart of the city’s Theatre District, Emerson College is one of the premier educational institutions with a concentration in visual and media arts. The College educates individuals who will solve problems and change the world through engaged leadership in communication and the arts, a mission informed by liberal learning. Emerson has 3,660 undergraduates and 829 graduate students from across the United States and 50 countries. Supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a renowned faculty, students participate in more than 80 student organizations and performance groups, student publications, honor societies, television stations including the Emerson Channel, and WERS-FM, the nation’s highest rated student-run radio station. Emerson is internationally known for its study and internship programs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., the Netherlands, London, China, and the Czech Republic. A new permanent facility on Sunset Boulevard is being constructed for its L.A.-based program, estimated to be completed by January 2014. Emerson has an active network of 32,000 alumni who hold leadership positions in communication and the arts. For more information, visit www.emerson.edu.