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U of I President: Sexual assaults must stop

Published: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 10:38 a.m. CDT

Sexual assault is a terrible crime, one for which there is no excuse. It occurs in communities across Iowa, and in every state — and it occurs on our college campuses.

Here at the University of Iowa, we are confronting this problem head on. We are taking action to educate students, support survivors, and hold offenders accountable.

As part of our efforts, we are communicating frankly with our students. When we learn of an incident, we send an email to the entire campus. We do this because federal law requires it. We do it to raise awareness and to provide safety information. And we do it to send the message to offenders that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.

Communicating more about sexual assaults has created the impression that more incidents are occurring in Iowa City. That’s not the case.

What’s happening is that we are getting more reports — and that’s a good thing, because when people report, it allows us to get them the help they deserve, and it gives police and campus authorities the chance to investigate.

Shortly after I became president of the University of Iowa, I mandated training for every employee, and in 2013 we achieved 100 percent compliance. We began this in 2008—six years before the federal government required all universities to do so.

We also require every student — undergraduate, graduate and professional — to take and pass an online course on this topic before they enroll. And we offer voluntary “bystander intervention training,” which more than 5,200 people have taken this year already.

In 2009, I created a coordinator position that reports directly to me and is charged with assuring that all departments of the university are working together to address the issue. We were one of the first universities to have such a position. We are also one of a small handful of universities to be consistently recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a national model for our efforts.

As university president, I take this issue very seriously. I believe that there is no excuse for sexual assault. It is a crime, and it is never the fault of the survivor.

Our actions and policies are clear. We never tolerate sexual misconduct, and we always hold offenders accountable.

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