JUNE 22, 2011
Dear Marquette Students:
As you know, in the past month there has been much on-campus conversation and a number of media stories about two sexual assault cases on the Marquette campus involving student athletes. These are difficult, sensitive situations for all involved. We want all our students to feel cared for and supported; when that is not the case, we need to take action.
I have had blunt and very direct conversations with colleagues across the university as we work to improve our responses to these types of incidents, and I can assure you that everyone is committed to ensuring our campus culture emphasizes care and respect for each other. We have been working to address the issues raised, and I now have some substantive progress to report.
Any incident of sexual violence is reprehensible and in complete opposition to the values of Marquette University. While federal law protecting the privacy of students prohibits sharing the details of these incidents and the outcomes of any disciplinary proceedings, they were investigated by the university with action taken in accordance with our student conduct code. They were also investigated by Milwaukee law enforcement officials, and no charges were filed.
The university has publicly acknowledged that we made mistakes in dealing with these incidents. We worked quickly and proactively to correct those procedures, both to be sensitive to victims and to comply with Wisconsin state law. We now refer any reported incident of sexual assault to the Sensitive Crimes Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department. We have also added a victim advocate to the staff of our Student Health Service and have more tightly restricted who on campus has access to reports from the Department of Public Safety.
As you know, we have many resources on campus, both to provide education about sexual violence and its prevention and to support those who are the victims of sexual violence. These include HAVEN, VOICES and the services of the Department of Public Safety, Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center and Student Health Service. In addition, we have very positive relationships with a number of community agencies. The Gender Resource Center, once operational, will also provide support in this area.
Upon hearing of the concerns involving these cases, I wanted to proactively address the issues and, thus, asked Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law and former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, to convene a group of campus and community representatives dealing with sexual violence. They have had conversations that have been very helpful to the university, and I am happy to report that considerable progress has been made, including:
• As noted above, the Department of Public Safety has worked with the MPD Sensitive Crimes Unit to ensure that the reporting of any sexual assault both complies with state law and is sensitive to the needs of victims. DPS officers also participated in victim-centered training this summer.
• The Office of Student Affairs, working with representatives from the district attorney’s office and our own law faculty, is re-writing our policies and procedures regarding sexual assault in light of what we’ve learned in these cases and the recently issued guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education. These policies and procedures will be in place for the 2011-12 academic year.
• Marquette’s Counseling Center and Student Health Service are working with academic and other colleagues on a number of prevention and education programs. Every incoming freshman will receive sexual violence and prevention training. An online program on sexual assault awareness and prevention, Student Success, will be piloted with targeted groups of students and staff this fall. There is also training planned in Bystander Intervention, i.e., how to help ensure the safety of a friend in vulnerable situations.
Surely, there is more to be done, and this is a focus of concentration this summer. We will get this right, because we want any student who is a victim of sexual assault to be supported and to come forward so she or he can make use of the many resources the university and our community partners have to offer. You can be helpful in this regard by caring for your friends, especially watching out for them in vulnerable situations; by reporting incidents that you feel compromise student safety; by utilizing the LIMO and Student Safety Patrol programs for safe transport; and by taking advantage of the personal safety and other educational programs available, including Bystander Intervention training when that is offered.
I want you to know that your safety and security have been and remain my number one concern. While I am retiring in just a few weeks, I have talked with my successor, Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., and know that he shares these concerns and will continue to move the university forward. In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact Dr. Chris Miller, vice president for student affairs.
I will continue to ask God’s abundant blessings on you and our entire Marquette community.
Robert A. Wild, S.J.