I want to share with you a letter I sent to all Marquette students yesterday as the campus begins Sexual Violence Awareness Week activities. I want you to know how important I consider this issue. We know that this is an issue on college campuses nationwide, and incidents on our own campus make it clear that we must be more proactive in addressing it.
While the university moved forward on many changes prior to my arrival in August, sexual violence and our university response was one of my first priorities. The letter that follows outlines both what has been done and actions I am taking.
I hope you will have conversations with your student about taking care—both of one's self and of others. Working together, I believe we can create an even more supportive culture on campus and become a model for other colleges and universities.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.
Dear Marquette Students:
As we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Week with a variety of activities, I want to take this opportunity personally to help raise awareness around this important issue and share what has changed on campus and what new actions we continue to take to help keep you safe.
If we are true to our mission as a Catholic and Jesuit university, it is clear that we need to do better as a campus community, both to care for and watch out for each other and to support those who come forward to report a sexual assault.
Since arriving on campus in August, I have worked closely with colleagues across the university on this issue. As a result of the changes that began last spring, I believe that we are a university community better able to respond to the problem of sexual violence than ever before.
In the past few months Marquette has:
- Changed and strengthened its reporting policy in April so that all sexual assault allegations reported to the Department of Public Safety are reported promptly to the Sensitive Crimes Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department.
- Provided all first-year students with mandatory sexual misconduct awareness and prevention training.
- Started to provide more extensive training to 1,500 students -- including RAs, Greeks, all student-athletes, VOICE volunteers, peer health educators, students in several classes and others. This three-part program will run through November.
- Had nearly 40 faculty and staff volunteer their time to be trained and to facilitate the student programs.
- Added a full-time victim advocate to the Student Health Service staff.
- Expanded student programs to include training in Bystander Intervention, a campus–wide initiative aimed at ensuring the safety of people in vulnerable situations.
- Put in place for the new school year stronger policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct that reflect suggestions from federal guidelines, law enforcement and victim advocates. These new policies and procedures are included in At Marquette, the student handbook.
- A comprehensive sexual misconduct website, including information about on-campus and off-campus resources and information about various forms of sexual misconduct, is under development.
More can and will be done. I have personally met with law enforcement officials and ask for their continued support. I have asked Janine Geske, Distinguished Professor of Law, to continue her work convening campus, community and law enforcement officials around the issue of sexual violence. I have invited three distinguished intercollegiate athletic leaders from across the country to conduct a peer review of our athletic program, including the culture of athletics on campus, and will use their work as the foundation for the search for a new Athletic Director.
We want you to be safe and to feel supported. I recognize that some of you who are reading this may have already been affected by sexual violence. I encourage you to use the resources on and around Marquette to provide you with the support you may need. Sexual violence of any kind is unacceptable in a community committed to the care and development of each of its members in the Ignatian tradition of cura personalis.
At the inauguration ceremonies later this week, we will celebrate together the aspirations we have for Marquette. Core to those aspirations is your personal success, including being part of a community in which we support and care for one another. Please take advantage of this week's programming and of the opportunities throughout this year to learn more about the long-term impact of sexual violence and how, together, we can make a difference.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.