Students arrived this fall to an assignment they might not have expected but are required to complete: A course on understanding and prevention of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The online training — which also is expected to be completed by all faculty and staff — is the first fruit of a task force convened in May 2013 to review and reshape the University’s policies and procedures for dealing with incidents of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a critical issue on college campuses across the country; the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education has found that most colleges do an inadequate job of investigating reports of assaults and adjudicating cases. Seventy-one schools were under investigation as of late August for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.
UNC is one of them, the result of complaints brought by five women — an alumna and two women who say they were raped and who were students when the complaint was filed in early 2013; a former administrator in student affairs; and a woman who remains anonymous. UNC was one of the starting points of what now is a network of assault victims nationwide who have called out their schools on what they see as often poorly focused, overworked and poorly trained counselors, investigators, health care providers, police and adjudicators in uncoordinated patchworks of offices and agencies.
Desiree Rieckenberg, senior associate dean of students and a member of the sexual assault task force, said the training raises awareness about the University’s no-tolerance policy and helps students gain a better understanding of why that policy exists.
“Training in itself creates an opportunity to better educate our students, to better educate our university population, and it contributes to a more aware and active citizenry,” Rieckenberg said.
The training is designed to:
The system used for the online training module will enable the University to determine whether an individual has completed the course. Students are expected to complete the training within 30 days after notification. It takes about 30 minutes to complete. Classroom training will be available for those individuals without computer access.
UNC also will offer ongoing opportunities for further education on the subject. Students are directed to the campus information website campusconversation.web.unc.edu.
The complete report of the task force is expected to be released early this fall.