SMU applauds the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to eradicate sexual violence on college campuses and to provide universities with additional tools to combat sexual assault. Our goals are the same.
The matters under review by the Education Department have been investigated by SMU and predate our University task force review of sexual misconduct policies and procedures. The University has been aggressive in putting into practice wide-ranging new procedures to inform and protect our students, to provide prompt and effective resolution of complaints, and to hold violators accountable while treating all students fairly.
SMU continually reviews and updates its programs in comparison with national benchmarks, and we are pleased that the White House also has made these matters a priority for all American universities. No issue is more important than the health and safety of our students.
The Department of Education is reviewing three SMU cases that predate the University’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures. One case involved a complaint of inappropriate language in a classroom; one involved an alleged sexual assault that was later dismissed by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office; and the third case, which does not involve a sexual assault allegation, is currently the subject of litigation.
A year ago, SMU President R. Gerald Turner adopted the task force’s recommendations for new and revised policies and procedures, including programs promoting education and training. Students, faculty and staff members have implemented many of these recommendations and continue to develop others.
New initiatives include an online course for incoming students on sexual misconduct prevention; an SMU Values Statement and the “Not on My Campus” campaign developed by student leaders; a research-based bystander intervention program created by the Department of Psychology and Health Center that will launch in fall 2014; and informational cards to help faculty and staff support students in case of sexual assault.
Continuing programs include sexual misconduct education in Wellness classes and residence hall programs, campus programs including Take Back the Night and Sexual Assault Awareness Week, and free self-defense programs offered by SMU Police.
Information about campus and community resources, state and federal laws, SMU policy, prevention and education is available on SMU’s Health and Safety website, smu.edu/LiveResponsibly.
SMU also is reviewing the White House’s national task force report on campus sexual assaults, which was released April 29, and will compare it with the SMU task force recommendations. SMU will make any changes needed to ensure that SMU policies are in line with national benchmarks.
As reported by the White House, sexual misconduct is a serious issue at universities and colleges across the country, and sexual assault is an underreported crime nationwide. SMU seeks to provide a supportive environment for students to come forward, seek medical care and alert police immediately.
Campus resources here to help students include SMU Police, the SMU Title IX Coordinator, confidential counselors at the SMU Health Center, the Office of the Dean of Student Life and the SMU Women’s Center. Community resources include the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.
SMU expressly prohibits sexual harassment, including sexual assault and all acts of sexual violence, and will hold violators accountable. Sexual assault is a violation of SMU Policy 2.5.1 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Sexual assault also is a crime under Texas law that is punishable by imprisonment.
All SMU community members are urged to join efforts to prevent sexual misconduct. Read an op-ed from Vice President for Student Affairs Lori S. White and SMU Title IX Coordinator Samantha Thomas in the May 2 Daily Campus.
Learn more on SMU’s Health and Safety website, smu.edu/LiveResponsibly.