October 10, 2013
By Dr. Lori S. White and Samantha Thomas
Early this fall, SMU Student Senators adopted a Values Statement founded on strong guiding principles:
“I, as a citizen of the SMU Community, commit myself to upholding the values of intellectual integrity, academic honesty, personal responsibility and sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty and staff.”
This statement is important, and student leaders are to be commended for their thoughtfulness and hard work on this issue. Each of us at SMU is responsible for creating a supportive and healthy environment in which all of us can pursue our goals and achieve our fullest potential. We all pledge to uphold the values and standards of behavior outlined in University policies including the Code of Conduct. We are expected to treat one another with care and to live responsibly.
What does it mean to live responsibly at SMU? Living responsibly means supporting one another by making sure everyone arrives home safely after a party. It means calling 911 when you see someone in danger because of drinking or drug use. It is urging a friend who has experienced sexual assault to go to the hospital and call police as soon as possible.
In dating and relationships, living responsibly means clearly communicating your limits on physical contact and always respecting your partner’s limits. It is drinking in moderation or abstaining from drinking because risk increases significantly when your judgment or your partner’s judgment is impaired. It means being aware that many sexual assaults reported on college campuses involve students who know one another.
Living responsibly means getting involved in efforts to prevent sexual assault and speaking out against attitudes that support it. It means knowing that sexual assault is a violation of University policy and a federal law called Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as a crime under Texas law that is punishable by imprisonment.
The concept of living responsibly has evolved through the work of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures, whose members included students, faculty, staff and community experts. During its deliberations last year, the Task Force invited and received input from the SMU community and external experts, and in May the group made 41 recommendations for new initiatives and refined procedures.
SMU has implemented many recommendations, including increased education for all community members on sexual assault prevention, reporting procedures and resources that are here to support students in case of sexual assault. Other recommendations are being developed with the input of students, faculty and staff. For example, the Department of Psychology and the Health Center are collaborating on a research-based bystander intervention program to train students how to help peers who may be in high-risk situations.
Going forward, we will continue to evaluate and refine these policies and procedures, which are so important for our community’s safety and well-being. Any reports of assaults are deeply concerning to all of us at SMU. SMU Police coordinate with external law enforcement agencies in the criminal investigation of assault cases, while the SMU Title IX Coordinator conducts an internal investigation under University policy.
We want a campus where no one experiences sexual misconduct. However, in examining this issue at universities across the country, the Task Force learned that sexual assault reports often rise when a university increases education about reporting procedures and resources. The Task Force urged SMU to be an environment in which students come forward to get help and report violations, in which violators are held accountable, and in which all students are treated fairly.
All of us can support that environment by making sure we are aware of resources that have staff who are trained in this issue, including:
- SMU Counseling and Psychiatric Services, 214-768-2277
- SMU Chaplain’s Office, 214-768-4502
- The Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, 972-641-7273
- The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, 214-345-6203
Other helpful campus resources, which will protect students’ confidentiality to the extent possible, but are required to report an assault to SMU Police and SMU’s Title IX Coordinator:
- SMU Police (criminal reporting), 214-768-3333
- Title IX Coordinator (internal grievance reporting), 214-768-3601
- Office of the Dean of Student Life, 214-768-4564
- Women’s Center, 214-768-4792
We urge you to learn more on SMU’s Health and Safety website, smu.edu/LiveResponsibly.
We’ve heard from many students, faculty and staff members who are discussing community values and a healthy campus environment in their residence halls and classrooms, within student organizations and Greek houses, and at the Women’s Center and Health Center. Please join in and speak up for living responsibly.
Dr. Lori S. White is Vice President for Student Affairs; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Samantha Thomas is the SMU Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Institutional Access and Equity; she can be reached at email@example.com.