Sexual Violence Task Force Finalizes Report

Recommendations will be addressed during the academic year.

The Sexual Violence Task Force finalized its report for President G.P. “Bud” Peterson last week, issuing a set of recommendations for improving prevention, education, response, and survivor support related to sexual violence on campus.

Peterson convened the task force in April in response to a white paper drafted by three female Tech students who conveyed their concerns about the campus climate around sexual assault. The group made up of students, faculty, and staff met throughout the summer to research current programming and processes, movement around sexual violence on a national level, and to recommend where Tech should go from here. 

“When we started looking at this issue, I was struck by the stories from former and current students who shared the details of their sexual assault,” said Lynn Durham, assistant vice president and chief of staff in the Office of the President, who chaired the task force. “Reading statistics is helpful, but truly knowing the impact to the victims is painful but motivating. I am eager to bring the conversation into the open so we can help more students.”

Among the recommendations and suggestions is a call for mandatory education on sexual violence for all incoming students, faculty, and staff. The mandatory education would provide baseline knowledge, with more in-depth training or programming offered to subsets of people who may act as first responders in an incident. Several bills being considered by Congress also call for mandatory education.

The report also recommends the establishment of an office within the Division of Student Affairs to address issues related to sexual violence. In the current structure, these issues are addressed by the VOICE initiative, a collaborative effort between the Women’s Resource Center and Stamps Health Services. Developing a dedicated office would provide defined leadership and more resources for long-term planning. This idea is being explored in conjunction with a wellness initiative that is part of the recommendations of the Mental Health Task Force; $150,000 in funding has already been allocated to the wellness initiative. 

Additionally, according to the task force report, the implementation of a recurring Sexual Violence Survey would aid in continuing to identify and measure the campus climate around sexual assault, and would be in line with what has been requested and could soon be mandated by the White House. The survey is part of a larger White House task force and initiative around preventing sexual assault on college campuses and the development of Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced legislation to toughen sanctions for schools that fail to report sexual assaults.

In the meantime, Tech updated its sexual misconduct policy in April, putting emphasis on ensuring transparency in reporting and adjudication, minimizing barriers that may prevent survivors from reporting sexual misconduct, defining consent, and a new provision of first-considered sanctions for policy violations. 

Members of the task force included male and female students, both undergraduate and graduate, and faculty and staff from the Office of Human Resources; Women’s Resource Center; School of History, Technology, and Society; Office of the President; Office of Legal Affairs; Stamps Health Services; Department of Housing; Georgia Tech Police Department; Greek Affairs; Counseling Center; Office of Student Integrity; Industrial and Systems Engineering; Enterprise Risk Management; and Office of the Provost.