Sexual assault policies revised over summer

From May to August, we enjoyed much appreciated vacations. Marquette officials, on the other hand, worked through the summer to improve university policies on sexual assault, after allegations involving student athletes surfaced last spring.

The university’s revised policy on sexual assault allegations more closely follows the set of strict guidelines announced by the United States Department of Education last April. Members of the Marquette community have also devised strategies during summer workshops and training.

Janine Geske, distinguished professor of law at Marquette and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, chaired a task force of campus and community members that focused on improving sexual misconduct policies. The group sought to improve communication about such incidents and raise awareness of existing resources available to the Marquette community.

“I think (the alleged incidents) brought to light the gaps in how Marquette approached things,” Geske said.

The task force began meeting last spring under the direction of former University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild. Among the participants were Milwaukee district attorney John Chisholm, victim advocates and counselors, members of the Department of Public Safety, representatives from the mayor’s office and Student Health Services, and several other university officials.

Geske said a full-time victims’ advocate would also be placed on campus as well as a rapid response team for immediate assistance to affected students.

The task force also discussed a revised role for DPS to facilitate communication between victims and the Milwaukee Police Department.

“We started talking that Public Safety had to call the police even if victim did not want them to call the police, and how we could do that more sensitively,” Geske said. “A good process was developed to make sure the victim is not re-victimized.”

One new program developed this year is the Student Success Program, an online course that focuses on sexual misconduct. Stephanie Quade, dean of students, said orientation staff and resident assistants completed the program to lead new students through the issue.

“That is a new component to raise awareness and give them some better language to reach out to students and be more confident in talking about it,” Quade said.

Quade said more student leadership groups will go through the program in the next few months, including athletics, club sports, Greek life and Marquette Student Government.

“If we can get that kind of conversation happening, we are helping people be more aware,” Quade said.

Charlotte O’Halloran, a junior in the College of Business Administration who has worked on orientation staff for the past two years, said the staff’s training this year emphasized sexual misconduct through two sessions with the counseling center and an open discussion.

“It will at least get everyone to start thinking about it and assess the situation,” O’Halloran said.

Efforts have also been made to emphasize programs and resources already available. These include “Marquette: On Stage,” an orientation program which includes monologues on sexual decision-making, as well as counseling resources.

Geske said the task force would continue discussions in mid-September.

“Sexual assault has a deep impact on individuals,” Geske said. “It’s an act of violence, and it is important for everybody to pay attention.”