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Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group

Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group

The Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group was established by President Tim Sands to advance the university’s commitment to end sexual violence and enhance preventative programming at Virginia Tech.

The group is chaired by Title IX Coordinator Katie Polidoro and includes a diverse assembly of stakeholders from numerous departments within the university. During the group’s inaugural meeting on November 12, 2021, President Sands charged members with developing a framework for sustainable climate and cultural transformation that will establish sexual violence prevention as a shared responsibility of the entire campus community. The group will initially focus on undergraduate students, with plans to include graduate students, faculty, and staff in the near future.

November 2021 · President’s Charge to the Work Group

Develop Framework: Sustainable Climate and Cultural Transformation

We need to move from a culture that tends to be responsive to a culture that is proactive. It will be important to build a program modeled similarly to InclusiveVT that will generate sustainable climate and cultural change. An important element of this work will be shifting the perception that two or three offices have responsibility for sexual violence prevention to a shared responsibility model embraced by the campus community.

Complete Program Assessment and Evaluation

We have a number of programs and activities across many departments that provide educational opportunities around sexual violence prevention. We need to understand the effectiveness of these programs and services. Additionally, as we move to expand campus engagement and transition to a community responsibility model, we must ensure we have programs in place to support the greater campus community.

Enable Transparent Operations and Communications

We have legal, federal, and state requirements that guide our reporting related to sexual violence. There are opportunities to move beyond our compliance requirements and provide more information to the campus. We should embrace a culture of increased transparency and enhanced communications.

Operationalize 2019 Recommendations

The work of the 2019 End Sexual Violence Taskforce identified three areas of opportunity to advance our prevention efforts: Programming, Governance, and Communications. We addressed one recommendation - the establishment of a prevention education position embedded within Hokie Wellness. It is now time to operationalize plans that would advance the other recommendations.

Engage Campus Broadly

The initial focus of the working group is undergraduate students. We have opportunities to have more targeted education and prevention efforts when students enter as freshmen. We will plan focused efforts around programs and services for our graduate students and employees in the near future. Students and the greater campus community must be actively and openly engaged in our shared goal of improving the campus climate and culture around sexual violence. It will be important for the working group to define multiple opportunities for our undergraduate students to be engaged in this work.

  • Mac Babb, chief of police and director of security
  • Bridget Brugger-McSorley, senior associate athletic director for strategic affairs
  • Kendrah Cline, lieutenant, Virginia Tech Police Department
  • Alicia Cohen, associate director, diversity education and training
  • Amy Epperley, director of hokie wellness
  • Paolo Fermin, undergraduate student representative to the Board of Visitors
  • Monika Gibson, assistant dean, Graduate School
  • Sean Grube, director, housing and residence life
  • Kristina Hartman, associate general counsel (advisor)
  • Byron Hughes, dean of students
  • Caroline Lohr, undergraduate student senate president
  • Gabby McCollum, interim director, new student and family programs
  • Ennis McCrery, special assistant to the vice president for student affairs
  • Kelly Oaks, associate vice president for equity and accessibility (advisor)
  • Mark Owczarski, associate vice president for university relations
  • Katie Polidoro, title IX coordinator (chair)
  • Lt. Col. Don Russell, deputy commandant of cadets
  • Rohsaan Settle, director of fraternity and sorority life
  • Jill Sible, associate vice provost for undergraduate education
  • Christine Smith, co-director, Women’s Center
  • Heather Wagoner, director, student engagement and campus life
  • Robert Weiss, faculty senate president
  • Nick Whitesell, acting director, student conduct
  • Lisa J. Wilkes, vice president for strategic initiatives and special assistant to the president (advisor)
  • Henry Yampolsky, assistant director for education, outreach, and conflict resolution

Co facilitators: Amy Epperley, Jill Sible

As a subcommittee of the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) Work Group, this group will plan for the assessment of the university’s efforts aimed at preventing sexual violence and changing campus culture related to gender-based harassment and violence. The subcommittee should:

  • Identify existing programming focused on sexual violence prevention.
  • Identify a means of assessing the effectiveness of current programming.
  • Propose a method for assessing the effectiveness of a campus-wide plan for cultural change proposed by the SVCC Work Group.

The subcommittee will emphasize engaging with survivors, communities at higher risk of sexual violence, and underserved communities. The subcommittee will collaborate with other subcommittees of the SVCC.

Co facilitators: Mark Owczarski, Gabby McCollum

As a subcommittee of the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) Work Group, this group will identify ways to effectively communicate the efforts of the SVCC work group to the university community as well as issues related to sexual harassment and violence across the university, including policies, resources, and other information. The subcommittee should:

  • Assess current communication strategies and consider additional strategies to better reach all members of our community.
  • Identify university communicators who can be enlisted to develop and share information and messaging.
  • Identify avenues and platforms to best reach and speak to community members in a way that is meaningful and engaging.
  • Identify the resources necessary to sustain a solid communication structure over time.

The subcommittee will emphasize engaging with survivors, communities at higher risk of sexual violence, and underserved communities. The subcommittee will collaborate with other subcommittees of the SVCC.

Co facilitators: Caroline Lohr, Alicia Cohen, Heather Wagoner

As a subcommittee of the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) Work Group, this group will identify effective ways to engage the university community in the efforts of the SVCC Work Group and the prevention of sexual harassment and violence in general. The subcommittee should:

  • Identify essential student groups and individual students to engage.
  • Identify essential employee groups to engage.
  • Propose multi-level means of briefing and soliciting feedback from community members, including:
    • In-person forums and gatherings.
    • Electronic and social media interactions.
    • Interactive events between faculty, students, and administrators.

The subcommittee will emphasize engaging with survivors, communities at higher risk of sexual violence, and underserved communities. The subcommittee will also propose solutions for engaging individuals who would not traditionally self-select or actively participate in dialogues concerning sexual harassment and violence.

Co facilitators: Ennis McCrery, Christine Dennis Smith, Byron Hughes

In his charge to the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) Work Group, President Sands identified the need for a framework to foster a sustainable climate and cultural transformation around sexual violence:

“We need to move from a culture that tends to be responsive to a culture that is more proactive. It will be important to build a program modeled similarly to InclusiveVT that will generate sustainable climate and cultural change. An important element of this work will be shifting the perception that two or three offices have responsibility for sexual violence prevention to a shared responsibility model embraced by the campus community.”

A subcommittee of the working group has been tasked with developing and proposing this framework. This process should include the following elements, some of which involve the work of other subcommittees and are, therefore, important to incorporate in the overarching framework:

  • Define the current state of the culture and climate as it relates to sexual violence and articulate the desired future state.
  • Identify key questions and core assumptions necessary to facilitate cultural transformation.
  • Identify institutional and organizational structures, traditions, symbols, policies, and practices that are barriers to cultural transformation and impact climate.
  • Review current resources dedicated to addressing gender-based culture and climate issues, including positions, programs, and funding.
  • Identify opportunities to integrate anti-violence and harassment work into existing roles and programs, as well as the need for additional resources to sustain the framework over time.
  • Identify the extent to which Virginia Tech’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives address gender equity and the intersections between gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, disability, etc.
  • Engage key populations, units, and roles that have significant influence and impact on the university’s climate and culture.
  • Identify a university-wide leadership, coordination, and accountability structure.

Among other things, the group should look to existing, similar models at Virginia Tech (i.e. InclusiveVT), feedback from community members gathered during past surveys and listening sessions, and model practices established by other institutions.

Co facilitators: Katie Polidoro, Henry Yampolsky

As a subcommittee of the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) Work Group, this group will plan for the continued implementation of the recommendations made by the 2019 End Sexual Violence Committee. The subcommittee should:

  • Identify recommendations left unaddressed and work not completed.
  • Evaluate remaining recommendations to determine whether they continue to be appropriate for our community.
  • Identify recommendations that are no longer necessary or suitable for implementation.
  • Propose resources and partnerships necessary for implementing supported recommendations.

The subcommittee should work collaboratively with other subcommittees, particularly the cultural transformation subcommittee and the assessment and evaluation subcommittee.

Facilitator: Kendrah Cline Advisor: Kristina Hartman

As a subcommittee of the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate (SVCC) Work Group, this group will identify opportunities for the university to improve communication and transparency as it navigates compliance and response work related to gender-based violence and harassment. The subcommittee should:

  • Review existing processes that communicate to the community when gender-based violence or harassment occurs.
  • Identify ways to assist the community in understanding the requirements and limitations of the university when responding to reports of sexual violence.
  • Using compliance as a floor, identify what additional information the university can and should share with the community to ensure safety in the community, ensure respect for the parties involved, and reassure the community that appropriate action is taken.

The group should review existing policies and procedures, consult with community members, and review model practices from other institutions.

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