The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors on Friday received a progress report on efforts to strengthen student safety.
The update included initiatives that have been planned, are already in place, or have launched in the wake of a Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article that thrust U.Va. into the national spotlight regarding issues of sexual assault.
Since publication of the article, the magazine has conceded that it contains serious errors and has apologized. However, University officials, student leaders and others have said the magazine’s journalistic failings will not affect plans to closely examine U.Va.’s efforts in key areas, including prevention, response and culture.
“We have the opportunity to lead,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “We also have the obligation, the will and the resolve to lead. From what I’ve seen, our community is going to respond.”
Charlottesville police currently are investigating the incidents reported in the magazine article. In addition, an independent counsel will conduct a review of the University’s policy, practices and procedures related to sexual assault.
“Let me say this for our board and for our whole University community: We have nothing to fear from the truth, and we are second to none in wanting it brought into full public view,” Rector George Keith Martin said during opening remarks at the meeting, held in Garrett Hall.
In November, Sullivan established a working group to build on existing efforts in a thorough examination of practices, with a concurrent goal of recommending safety enhancements in the short-, medium- and long-term future. The Ad Hoc Group on University Climate and Culture, chaired by Sullivan, includes students, faculty members, staff, alumni, parents and two members of the Board of Visitors.
The group is charged with exploring policies, practices and organizational structure, as well as the resources necessary to support the ultimate goal of providing an outstanding education while ensuring the safety and well-being of students. An administrative task force is charged with implementing the advisory group’s recommendations.
Board members on Friday heard a substantial list of initiatives, including those in support of physical safety on Grounds, those bolstering education and training of students and staff, and those that enhance support for survivors of sexual assault.
Some early recommendations already are in place or under way, including the hiring of additional counseling and trauma response personnel in the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and in U.Va.’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Next semester, students will see a new police substation serving the Corner area, and increased patrols. Also planned are enhancements to on-Grounds lighting and improvements to the University’s camera system, including work with Corner merchants to add camera capacity in the popular area.