President Eastman’s Nov. 5 announcement of new initiatives to combat sexual offenses on campus

November 26, 2014

President Eastman announced earlier this fall (November 5, 2014) in an email to the campus community a series of initiatives to deal with sexual assault. The following is the text of that announcement:

Nothing is more important than ensuring that our campus community issafe—free from sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender violence.  I am writing to update you on the steps that we have taken in recent years to achieve this end and to share plans for upcoming initiatives designed to enhance what we believe are already robust policies, procedures, educational programs, and survivor support services

In 2005, the College, through the Student Life program, hired Brett Sokolow, an attorney who is a nationally respected consultant, to review the College’s policies and procedures related to these areas and ensure that they represented not only the requirements of the law but also the best practices in higher education.  When new federal regulations from the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights were released, the College’s approach to addressing these areas was revealed to be sound, thanks in great part to the diligence of Student Life staff as well as the expertise of Mr. Sokolow.

In consultation with Mr. Sokolow and other experts in these matters, we have continued to update and refine the Title IX policies that were first implemented in 2005.  To make sure that we follow best practices in regard to policies and procedures, the College requires all new students to complete sexual misconduct programs, such as Haven—Understanding Sexual Assault, a highly-respected online module that educates students about issues related to the prevention of and response to sexual harassment and sexual violence. We also devote significant time and resources to staff training, which has distinguished us as a leader/host for Title IX training for other institutions in Florida.  Our training efforts also have included the creation of an ongoing education program for our Board of Trustees which began with a plenary session for all Board members at the October 2014 meeting featuring Mr. Sokolow as the keynote speaker.

 In addition, our Health and Outreach counselors, our Counseling Centerstaff, our Residence Life program, and our Office of Campus Safety have worked tirelessly to provide excellent survivor support services. We have augmented these on-campus efforts with our close relationship with the St. Petersburg Police Department and with off-campus resources and organizations in support of survivors of sexual assault.

 Although the College has been doing admirable work in all of these areas, we believe that we can and must do better by ensuring, as we have done for nearly a decade, the superior quality of our policies, procedures, and programs, and sustaining a campus culture that does not tolerate sexual misconduct, harassment, or gender violence in any form. To this end, faculty, Student Life staff, and student leaders are partnering to develop new initiatives designed to bolster our culture of care and respect and to mitigate the negative influences in the broader national culture, to which no college is immune. The new efforts will include:

  • the enrichment of an already strong relationship between the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) Faculty Committee and Student Life staff, led by our Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator, Lorisa Lorenzo, that will foster co-sponsored events and speakers, workshops, dine-and-discuss sessions, and community forums that will impact campus culture in intentional ways;
  • the implementation of a college-wide, web-based sexual misconduct training program for faculty and staff to educate them about issues related to the prevention of and response to sexual harassment and sexual violence;
  • the development of new initiatives for students that expand upon the bystander intervention skills and confidence-building strategies presented during Autumn Term sexual misconduct training;
  • the scheduling of a faculty forum in February 2015 featuring Brett Sokolow; and
  • the expansion beyond freshman year of sexual misconduct training and prevention programs that are integrated into all areas of residential and campus life.
  • All campus constituencies must work together to create and sustain a college community that is free from sexual harassment and sexual violence. I call upon each of you to participate fully in the various programs that are planned for the spring semester and beyond and to do your part to ensure that Eckerd remains a community characterized by mutual respect and care.