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Saturday September 25th

Inconsistent sexual assault definitions hamper UNC-system Campus Security Committee

Members of the UNC System Campus Security Committee listen at a meeting on the Campus Security Initiative at the UNC System's office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Buy Photos Members of the UNC System Campus Security Committee listen at a meeting on the Campus Security Initiative at the UNC System's office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Officials from 10 UNC-system schools gathered in Chapel Hill Wednesday morning for the academic year’s first Campus Security Committee meeting. The meeting focused on how to address system-wide issues like campus crime data collection and reporting.

Members of various subcommittees focusing on data collection, training recommendations, campus climate surveys and a system-wide safety conference discussed their efforts in the past academic year.


Ronette Sutton Gerber, director of Title IX and Clery Compliance at UNC-Pembroke, and David Weldon, director of Emergency Management at UNC-Asheville, listen at a UNC System meeting on the Campus Security Initiative at the UNC System's office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.


LaKesha Alston Forbes of East Carolina University’s Equity and Diversity office described her committee’s challenges in creating a standard reporting system for Title IX violations across campuses, sparking the morning's longest discussion. Because each school is able to create its own policies about what constitutes sexual offenses like rape or sexual assault, she said, compiling meaningful data system-wide can be difficult. 

"We don't have the standard definitions,” she said. “Sometimes, we're not talking about the same thing as far as even our definition of sexual assault, our definitions as it relates to policy violations and that sort of thing."

Dave Johnson of North Carolina State University's Institutional Equity and Diversity office said having different definitions for basic concepts like consent or sexual assault from campus to campus “doesn’t make any sense.”

"What we're hearing is that students don't get why consent at NC State is not the same as consent at UNC or at Central or wherever,” Johnson said. “How is 'sexual harassment' not the same all over the state? How is 'sexual assault' not? How is 'consent?' How is there not one 'consent' definition?"


Members of the UNC System Campus Security Committee discuss the Campus Security Initiative at the UNC System's office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.


Members like David Green of North Carolina Central University’s law school and Stacey Miller of Western Carolina University's athletic department voiced opposition to adopting system-wide definitions. Having individual definitions for each campus allows each university to tailor their policies according to campus culture, they said. Green added that these definitions also use federal guidelines to form policies. 

"There is a strong desire to maintain those definitions for our campus,” Miller said. “We believe they best represent our campus."

The #MeToo movement has further sparked debate surrounding sexual assault on campus. This past summer, UNC-Chapel Hill was found in violation of Title IX. Chancellor Carol Folt resolved to be transparent about sexual harassment policies, provide access to appeal procedures and give descriptions of informal resolution processes. UNC's violations were not addressed at Wednesday's meeting. 


Members of the UNC System Campus Security Committee listen at a meeting on the Campus Security Initiative at the UNC System's office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.


Committee members agreed to meet with senior leadership, including UNC-system President Margaret Spellings, for further guidance. 

 UNC-Greensboro's Dean of Students Brett Carter, whose committee was tasked with implementing a system-wide campus climate survey, again acknowledged the fact that differences in campus cultures made meaningful data collection difficult. He recommended using the federal Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative Survey. 

David Weldon of UNC-Asheville’s Student Affairs Division, joked that his committee had been given “the fun job:organizing the system’s inaugural Safety and Security Conference to equip system schools with best practices. The June conference was a success, he said, and planning is underway for this year’s iteration.


Michael Davis, president of the Student Government Association at UNC-Asheville, and members of the UNC System Campus Security Committee prepare for a meeting on the Campus Security Initiative at the UNC System's office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.


Committee members broke for lunch around 11:30 a.m. They were assigned to new subcommittees and given the rest of the meeting time to work on tasks for the 2018-19 academic year. 

This year’s subcommittees will focus on organizing another Safety and Security Conference, adopting “Safe@” websites similar to the one launched by UNC-Chapel Hill, Clery Act and Title IX oversight, protecting visiting minors on campus and campus safety presentations for the Board of Trustees. 

@colevillena

university@dailytarheel.com

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