With a focus on continuing to improve the “living, learning and working environment,” University of Virginia officials invested considerable time and effort in 2015 on safety-related issues.
Throughout the year, the University convened groups of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members for conversations on key issues including UVA’s commitment to addressing sexual violence and plans for infrastructure improvements on Grounds.
Progress made during 2015 includes:
The UVA Police Department has opened a public safety substation on The Corner at 1413 University Ave. (the former Freeman-Victorius Framing Shop), and will host an open house there on Feb. 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The substation was established in partnership with the Charlottesville Police Department and provides space for both departments to engage with the community and conduct other work.
University officers have increased foot patrols in The Corner area and now are assigned to work Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Charlottesville Police typically has an officer assigned to foot patrol in the Corner area all nights of the week.
UVA Ambassadors, now staffed by Richmond-based RMC Events, will be present in the substation 24 hours a day for general assistance and questions. For emergencies and to report crimes, University Police still recommend calling 911 first.
Ambassadors are carefully screened, unarmed security officers, clad in neon yellow polo shirts, parkas and rain jackets. From 4 p.m. to 7 a.m., Ambassadors patrol a wide area that students frequent. This includes The Corner, Rugby Road, and the West Main Street and Jefferson Park Avenue corridors. Ambassador coverage may adjust according to demand and need during special events. Oversight for the program remains in the University Police Department. The coverage area map is found online here.
The University formally noted the expanded safety role of the former Office of Emergency Preparedness by renaming it the Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
SafeRide operation will transition from the purview of the University Police Department to UVA Parking & Transportation on June 1. With student input, Parking & Transportation is developing plans to better meet the evolving late-night transportation needs of the student population. In the meantime, the University Police Department will continue to operate SafeRide.
Infrastructure Investments on Grounds
During 2015, the University made expansive physical improvements to enhance safety. These include upgrades to lighting at Stadium Road and Alderman Road, new light fixtures under the Emmet Street Railroad Bridge, as well as improvements to sidewalk lighting around Grounds and repair of emergency phones.
This year, the City of Charlottesville will enhance pedestrian safety at the intersection of Rugby Road and Culbreth Road with the addition of two stop signs and stop bars. The University will install a new rapid flashing beacon crosswalk at University Avenue and Chancellor Street.
The UVA Office of Safety and Emergency Preparedness also offers a new online safety hazard reporting tool to alert officials to locations that need attention. Examples of hazards include non-functioning lights, tripping hazards and emergency phone issues.
“The safety of the members of our community is the University’s top priority,” UVA Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick D. Hogan said. “We are continuously reviewing our Grounds and making improvements to enhance safety and security.”
Ad Hoc Group on University Climate and Culture
Established by UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan in December 2014, the Ad Hoc Group on University Climate and Culture and its associated working groups on Culture, Response and Prevention advanced a number of recommendations that were adopted or put into motion in 2015.
The Ad Hoc Group serves as an advisory body to the president and was created to explore 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. Membership includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and two members of the University's Board of Visitors.
“We are committed to our ongoing efforts to better ensure that all members of the University community are free from acts of hostility and harassment,” Sullivan said. “We will continue to evaluate recommendations and initiatives to better ensure that resources are properly aligned with the needs of the University community. Our faculty, staff and students will continue to contribute as we strategically integrate our immediate and long-term efforts.”
Key advances include:
- Ninety-seven percent of students have completed the “Not on Our Grounds” sexual assault training and the “Alcohol Wise” alcohol abuse prevention training modules that were implemented during the fall 2015 semester.
- The University’s Title IX coordinator and Assistant Vice President for Clery Act Compliance trained approximately 1,000 employees on matters relating to Title IX and the Clery Act. They also conducted small-group training and discussion sessions for undergraduate and graduate student groups on these topics.
- In partnership with the University Programs Council, Student Affairs launched “an initiative offering alternative activities and programs for students during certain “high-risk,” late-night hours.
- The University’s revised Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence is considered a national model and is the first such policy to be found fully compliant by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
- The #HOOSGotYourBack campaign was expanded to include partnerships with downtown Charlottesville merchants and University departments.
- The University has added resources to provide enhanced counseling and support to survivors of sexual assault and to provide oversight of University compliance with evolving state and federal legislation.
- The Office of Equal Opportunity Programs now provides a centralized response to all potential violations of the Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. This transition created one office dedicated to investigating and adjudicating incidences of racial, ethnic, sexual and gender-based harassment and assault if they occur. Catherine Spear was hired as the assistant vice president for equal opportunity programs.
- Kelley Hodge was hired as the University’s first full-time Title IX coordinator. Two deputy Title IX coordinators are currently being recruited.
- Gabe Gates was hired as the assistant vice president for Clery Act compliance.
- The Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and Counseling and Psychological Services added trauma counselors to their staff. Specifically, CAPS increased its staff by 4.2 full-time employees for fiscal year 2016.
- Student Affairs added a part-time case manager to track, monitor and assist in responding to reports of prohibited conduct under the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence.
The January update to the Ad Hoc Group on University Culture and Climate is available here.