The University of Nebraska will soon mandate all students and employees complete sexual misconduct training after days of student-led demonstrations following an alleged rape at a UNL fraternity.
President Ted Carter outlined the minimum standards those training requirements will need to meet in an executive memorandum dated Wednesday, a document he said will “make sure we’re consistent across the campuses.”
The new systemwide policy emerged from a Sept. 3 meeting between Carter and the campus chancellors after students demanded the University of Nebraska-Lincoln take action following reported sexual assaults at multiple fraternities during the first week of the fall semester.
UNL temporarily suspended the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, better known as Fiji, while it investigates. Another fraternity, Sigma Chi, placed itself on suspension following another reported incident.
Meanwhile, student demonstrations called on administrators to act in addressing the root causes of sexual assault and harassment on campus, as well as to do more to support survivors.
In a phone interview, Carter said NU has taken steps to address sexual misconduct on its campuses but said more can be done to ensure students have a safe, welcoming and inclusive experience.
“There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing,” he said.
According to the new policy, NU will create in-person and peer-led sexual misconduct trainings required for all students, faculty and staff on an annual basis.
Previous training and education programs have been voluntary and were completed by only 4 in 10 students, according to a 2016 article in the Daily Nebraskan.
Carter acknowledged the completion rates for prior initiatives was “not great” and said the new policy will have an enforcement mechanism that puts “teeth” into the requirement.
But, he added, NU will also develop an approach to the trainings that doesn’t re-traumatize victims or force them to identify themselves unnecessarily.
“Survivors shouldn’t be exposed to the same level of education and training as others,” Carter said. “We want to have a trauma-informed education for those folks.”
Students will also be required to complete training on drug and alcohol use — substance abuse isn’t an excuse for sexual misconduct, Carter said, but is often a contributing factor — which would include a review of campus policies.
The policy also calls for bystander training programs to help teach community members to aid in preventing misconduct before it occurs.
NU will expand resources for its Title IX process, as well as employees who are points of contact for those wishing to report sexual misconduct on campus, and will boost mental health and wellness resources, as well as additional resources for survivors.
The initiative out of the NU system office comes on the heels of measures announced at UNL last week.
Speaking to student government leaders, Chancellor Ronnie Green outlined a series of first steps the campus will take to increase training and provide resources to those who have experienced sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, stalking or harassment on campus.
Those include increasing the number of advocates on the UNL campus from two to four, partnering with Voices of Hope to provide resources for victims, requiring trainings beginning in 2022, hiring a director of education on sexual assault and creating a more visible place on campus for survivors to seek services.
While it might take some time to fully implement the new systemwide policy, NU will conduct a survey in the spring “to assess issues relevant to sexual misconduct, including student behavior, safety and well-being,” as well as to assess how well processes and resources are working -- the first time NU has gauged student opinions about these matters.
According to Carter’s memo, the climate survey will be conducted once every two years. At his last position, as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, midshipmen were surveyed annually.
“We tend to metricize the problem based on reporting (of sexual misconduct), but reporting doesn’t tell the whole story,” he said. “We need to better understand what’s happening on our campus. I want to get an honest assessment, even if it may be uncomfortable.”
Once it has data in hand, Carter said NU can take further action as needed: “You can’t change the culture if you don’t know what you really have.”
Carter, who as the leader of the Naval Academy testified before Congress on what the institution was doing to combat rising numbers of sexual assaults, said he wanted to lead a collaborative effort to do the same across NU.
The first focus, he said, is ensuring the correct resources are in place to help survivors feel supported and comfortable in coming forward and reporting instances of sexual misconduct.
“We’ve got to get the care part exactly right,” Carter said. “It’s very hard to hold individuals accountable when the survivor does not feel comfortable enough to make a report.”