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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 charge of the Sexual Violence Culture and Climate Work Group is to develop a framework for sustainable climate and cultural transformation that establishes sexual violence prevention as a shared responsibility of the entire Virginia Tech community. 

For the 2022-23 Academic Year, the Work Group will focus on: 

Implementation of a Sustainable Model  

Last year’s Cultural Transformation Subcommittee recommended a working model consisting of organized committees and community events needed to sustain cultural transformation at Virginia Tech. The model includes:

  • Creating a permanent SVCC comprised of practitioners across the university responsible for generating and implementing community efforts dedicated to sexual violence prevention and culture change. This group will incorporate the existing Sexual Violence Prevention Council;
  • Creating a student SVCC comprised of student leaders to identify student needs and perspectives. A clear line of communication, including student representatives, should be established between the SVCC and the Student SVCC;
  • Establishing a Policy and Practice Group to ensure that current policies and procedures related to sexual violence are regularly examined and incorporate better practices; and
  • Continuing the Title IX Advisory Council as a response team, ensuring that individual reports of sexual violence are handled properly.

At the center of the group is the SVCC Executive Council, comprised of university leaders, responsible for general oversight of the model and consideration of resource and budget requests to sustain it.

Awareness and Engagement 

Community engagement and transparency will continue to be part of SVCC’s charge. During the last year, we made significant progress in increasing transparent communication and improving our culture related to sexual violence. The group will work on increasing transparency in communicating the “whole picture” of gender-based violence at Virginia Tech, implement a university-wide prevention campaign, and continue to work on engaging the community in meaningful ways.

Re-Focus on Areas of Risk

The SVCC spent last year working to disrupt the “red zone” and focusing much of its prevention-oriented work on incoming residential freshmen. It is imperative that SVCC expand its focus this year to address other prominent areas of risk. 

The SVCC will focus on undergrads living off campus, addressing a high risk time for violence surrounding spring break, social holidays, and university traditions, in addition to focusing on the unique needs of graduate and professional students.  

Assessment

SVCC will continue to assess the effectiveness of its work and existing culture change and prevention programming.  

  • Mac Babb, Chief of Police and Director of Security
  • Benjamin Beiter*, President, Graduate and Professional Student Senate
  • Stephen Biscotte*, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
  • Bridget Brugger-McSorley, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Affairs
  • Anna Buhle*, Graduate BOV Representative
  • Rebecca Caldwell*, Director for Residential Wellbeing
  • Sandee Cheynet*, Assistant Vice President, Human Resources
  • Chelsea Cleary, Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist, Hokie Wellness
  • Kendrah Cline, Lieutenant, Virginia Tech Police Department
  • Alicia Cohen, Associate Director, Diversity Education and Training
  • Amy Epperley, Executive Director of Hokie Wellness
  • Monika Gibson, Interim Chief of Staff, Graduate School
  • Martha Glass*, Interim Dean of Students
  • Kristina Hartman, Associate General Counsel, Legal (resource member)
  • Robin Jones*, Virginia Tech Innovation Campus
  • Caroline Lohr, President, Undergraduate Student Senate
  • Ross Mecham, Sr. Director, Strategic Initiatives, Change Management (resource member)
  • Gabby McCollum, Director, New Student and Family Programs
  • Kayla McNabb*, Assistant Director, Teaching and Learning Engagement, University Libraries
  • Kelly Oaks, Associate Vice President for Equity and Accessibility (advisor)
  • Katie Polidoro, Title IX Coordinator (chair)
  • Robin Queen*, Vice President, Faculty Senate
  • Ashley Roberts*, Director for Communications, Student Affairs
  • Jamal Ross*, Undergraduate BOV Representative 
  • Lt. Col. Don Russell, Deputy Commandant of Cadets
  • Rohsaan Settle, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life
  • Christine Smith, Co-director, Women’s Center
  • Morgen Snowadzky*, Assistant Director, Student Engagement and Campus Life
  • Lauren Surface*, Director of Student Services
  • Crasha Townsend*, Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Robert Weiss, President, Faculty Senate
  • Nick Whitesell, Acting Director of Student Conduct
  • Lisa Wilkes, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives & Special Assistant to the President (advisor)
  • Henry Yampolsky, Assistant Director for Education, Outreach, and Conflict Resolution

*new members for 2022-23

This subcommittee should make final recommendations on the formation of the various groups identified as necessary to the Sustainable Model for Cultural Transformation (with the exception of the executive council appointed by the President).  Focus should be on:

  • Membership of each group;
  • Planning for how the SVCC and Student Group will interact and collaborate; and
  • Identifying necessary steps to establish permanency of groups.

This subcommittee should identify effective ways to engage the university community related to the efforts of the SVCC Work Group and sexual harassment and violence in general. The subcommittee will: 

  • Identify essential student groups and individual students to engage;
  • Identify essential employee groups to engage; and 
  • Propose multi-level means of briefing and soliciting feedback from community members.
     

This subcommittee should also make recommendations to plan the events identified in the Sustainable Model for Cultural Transformation.  Focus should be on:

  • An annual Sexual Violence Summit for the Spring 2023 semester;
  • Events to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April; and
  • Identifying needs to ensure events can be repeated on an annual basis.

In doing its work, the subcommittee will emphasize engaging with survivors, communities at higher risk of sexual violence, and underserved communities.  The subcommittee will also problem solve on ways to more effectively engage individuals who would not traditionally self-select or actively participate dialogues concerning sexual harassment and violence. 

This subcommittee should plan for a university wide prevention campaign.  Focus should be on:

  • Ensuring that campaign messaging is tied to an element of an effective prevention program;
  • Ensuring that campaign reaches students, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students; and
  • Identifying needs for successful, sustainable prevention campaigns.

This subcommittee should seek ways the university can improve communication and transparency as it navigates compliance and response work related to gender based violence and harassment. The group should: 

  • Review existing processes that communicate to the community when gender based violence or harassment occur;
  • Identify ways to assist the community in understanding the requirements and limitations of the university when responding to reports of sexual violence; and
  • Using compliance as a floor, identify what additional information the university can and should share with the community to ensure safety in the community, respect 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.  

This subcommittee should make recommendations for an alternative resolution or restorative justice program specific to addressing issue related to gender based harassment and violence. Focus should be on:

  • Outlining the appropriate scenarios for applying an alternative resolution or restorative justice option;
  • Exploring options for both individual case resolution as well as resolving community level conflict in a way that aligns with Virginia Tech’s commitment to building a community the protects against violence; and
  • Identifying necessary resources and training.

This subcommittee should explore ways to better engage academic departments in the work of cultural transformation. Focus should be on:

  • Working with academic faculty and administrators to create supportive environments in academic departments that protect against sexual violence and encourage reporting; 
  • Establishing means of creating discussion and learning opportunities about sexual harassment and violence in an academic setting; and
  • Leveraging Virginia Tech’s academic and research expertise to lead in building a safer community.

This subcommittee should pay close attention to the experiences of graduate and professional students in academic programs. 

This subcommittee should 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: 

  • Identify existing programming focused on sexual violence prevention;
  • Identify means of assessing the effectiveness of current programming; and
  • Propose a means to assess the effectiveness of a campus wide plan for cultural change proposed by the SVCC Work group.

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