VCU launched a “Duty to Report” campaign last week, which urges students, faculty and staff to report any actual or suspected federal, state or university violations. The campaign is contingent on community involvement and awareness.
“There are enough cautionary tales from campuses around the country that remind us that we should remain vigilant and regularly communicate with the entire campus community about our duty to report and address any wrongdoing,” said VCU president Michael Rao, Ph.D., in an email to the VCU community on Feb. 5.
There are several federal laws that fall under the campaign, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Mandatory Reporting of Injuries to Children Act within the state law and the Jeanne Clery Act. University departments including the VCU police department, Division of Inclusive Excellence, Student Affairs and the Wellness Center are also involved.
“Duty to report is broader than Title IX or gender violence. I don’t want to have anyone feel disenfranchised because of sexual misconduct at this school. We have a duty to report but we also have a duty to investigate,” said Wanda Mitchell, Title IX coordinator and VCU’s vice president for inclusive excellence.
Suspected wrongdoings can be reported through a number of different channels made available through the campaign. Any type of sexual harassment, violence or coercion is handled by dean of student affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator Reuban Rodriguez, Ph.D., if the incident involves students.
Such cases involving employees should be directed toward Dolores Carrington-Hill, the interim director of institutional equity and deputy title IX coordinator.
“Nationally, sexual assault is underreported, which is why initiatives like this and active groups like the Well, who work to educate and work with survivors, and (President Barack) Obama’s recent legislation are so important. Starting this fall every college is going to be mandated to provide training for incoming students on sexual misconduct and awareness,” Rodriguez said, explaining that it is not uncommon for an uninvolved party, not the victim, to report a crime.
The campaign will also feature several education and training initiatives. A campus forum will be held April 10 where president Rao and a representative from the office of civil rights in Washington, D.C. will present. The forum will be discussion-based and feature a panel of faculty, students, and staff.
“We want student leaders, ambassadors and supporters to attend trainings and forum meetings and most importantly to just be there for students. We want VCU to have a great campus climate,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell stressed the importance of having student involvement not only in forums and trainings, but in spreading awareness of the campaign as well.
“There haven’t been a lot of sexual misconduct cases at VCU … but to me one is too many,” she said. “That’s just one person who reported it … how many are too afraid to report it? This should be a climate that helps students excel, not deter them.”