Evan Hierholzer, Managing Editor
In light of national legislation, the Office of Student Life (OSL) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. The initiative comes on the heels of an alleged sexual assault on campus near the end of the spring 2013 semester.
According to a report released by the Office of Campus Safety (CSO), the assault occurred on May 3, but was not reported to the CSO until Sept. 4, university officials said.
“[The University of Dallas] did not receive the details necessary to file an official report until September,” John Plotts, vice president of enrollment and student affairs, said of the gap in time between the alleged offense and its report.
The investigation of the incident was confined solely to university authorities, with the OSL leading the investigation and the CSO lending its support. The Irving Police Department was not called, and the case is now closed, according to Plotts.
The alleged assault occurred in West Hall, and “at the time, both individuals were students,” Plotts said.
When asked if disciplinary action was taken against the student accused of the assault and, if so, what the outcome was, Plotts said, “This information is protected by the Family Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Both persons involved have been made aware of the results of the investigation per federal regulation.”
This case represents only one impetus in the OSL’s campaign to raise awareness concerning sexual assault on the university campus. National attention has also compelled legislators to draft acts addressing the issue of violence on college campuses across America.
“On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which included the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, designed to help curtail sexual violence on college campuses,” Plotts said.
According to the Clery Center, an organization devoted to the prevention of violence, substance abuse and other problems that afflict university and college campuses, SaVE emphasizes transparency, accountability, education and collaboration in handling campus violence.
The Clery Center’s website names specific provisions in the law that outline universities’ responsibility to educate their students regarding “issues of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.” The site indicates that these provisions primarily provide for “ongoing prevention and awareness programs for students and faculty.”
“By law, we are required to provide additional information to our students about the issue of sexual violence,” said Plotts. Furthermore, because the university “receives federal financial-aid funding, [UD] must communicate to students and other constituents on a number of consumer-information topics with very specific content in a very specific way.”
This ensures the university’s conforming to the standards set forth by the Department of Education.
In his comments on the university’s compliance with the recent legislation and the Department of Education standards, Plotts said, “We want our students to be safe, so compliance for us is not only a legal matter but a moral one as well.”
The OSL’s awareness campaign, already underway, addresses the university’s core concern of maintaining its students’ safety, specifically regarding the threat of sexual violence, while at the same time complying with those legislative developments that require heightened standards for campuses across the nation.