Search for director of sexual assault prevention, education takes shape
One in four college women are survivors of rape or attempted rape. Once much debated but now widely accepted as accurate, the statistic exposes the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. That the statistic comes as a surprise to most college students exposes just how underreported sexual assault is.
This lack of understanding, however, is something the Washington University administration and students are working together to change.
Members of the Advisory Committee on Sexual Violence and Prevention (ACSVP) are moving forward with plans to hire an assistant director of sexual assault prevention and education.
Over the summer, the committee chose three preliminary candidates to interview for the position. The three candidates, whose names cannot be released publicly due to a human resources policy for new hires, will be visiting campus on separate days beginning next week.
Each candidate will be interviewed in a daylong process by the steering committee within the ACSVP as well as its advisory committee, which is chaired by Assistant Professor of Education Mary Ann Dzuback and includes several University faculty members and undergraduate and graduate students.
A separate interview with University student leaders will also take place, involving members of Men Organized for Rape Education, Committee Organized for Rape Education, Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline and other groups.
“We feel that the candidates who are coming are all excellent candidates with the credentials we’re looking for,” said Jill Stratton, associate dean of students.
There will also be three open forums for all students, faculty and staff of the University to meet the candidates. The forums will consist of a 30-minute presentation by the candidates, followed by a question-and-answer session. The forums are on Aug. 31, Sept. 10 and Sept. 15.
“Their topic [during the forum] is essentially addressing sexual assault and violence on college campuses,” Stratton said. “How they present that is up to them. We want to see their style and how they interact with the students, since that is an important part of the position”
Following the forums, the committee hopes it will be able to reach a decision, though Dzuback and Stratton both say they do not yet know when exactly the position will be filled.
“That depends on how the search goes,” she said. “But searches can be complicated and much depends on locating the best candidate, and then dealing with the candidate’s requirements and commitments, which has to be done before bringing her/him to campus.”
Still, Dzuback says she hopes a candidate will assume the position by spring 2010.
Alan Glass, director of Student Health Services, emphasized the importance of hiring “a person with the proper credentials, experience and personality.”
“The position will remain open until we find the right individual,” he said.
Coordinator will work with multiple groups on campus
In his or her work on preventing sexual assault and educating the University community about the issue, the candidate selected to the position will receive a great amount of support from Stratton and Jami Ake, lecturer in humanities and assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences.
“We realized that even though we have a support system of students, there was a gap in the coordination of the prevention of this issue,” Stratton said.
The director will work out of the Habif Health and Wellness Center on the South 40, according to Dzuback.
“The assistant director will be coordinating efforts with the police, student groups, the Habif Health Services office and the director and other assistant directors, the [judicial board], all groups dealing with the issues and problems that involve sexual assault and relationship violence,” Dzuback said.
Selection of candidates comes after years of planning
Though efforts to create the position have been underway for almost a decade, the administration has not pursued the task as aggressively until now.
The biggest push in the University’s efforts to address sexual assault came in February 2007, when a man who was not a University student entered a suite in Myers Hall and raped a female student.
Arrested by the Clayton Police Department in March 2007, the perpetrator, William Harris, pled guilty and received a 25-year sentence this past April.
Though the incident reinvigorated the issue and emphasized the University’s need for the assistant director position, Stratton said a significant amount of time still passed between the former Committee on Sexual Assault’s initial recommendation and the actual coordination of search efforts.
This was partially due to the 2008 retirement of former assistant vice chancellor Karen Levin Coburn, who had been a key player in the process.
“The University really cares about this issue and there are a lot of people from faculty and staff to students who are very committed and passionate about this issue,” Stratton said.
With additional reporting by Kat Zhao