When Texas Baptist university students report to campus for the fall semester, they can expect to hear plenty about how to recognize and prevent sexual violence.
The issue gained national attention in recent months—particularly after some Baylor University football players were convicted of sexual assault and regents hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to investigate how the school handled reports of sexual violence.
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Baylor Interim President David Garland insists the university views the 105 recommendations as “mandates” and has made significant progress toward implementing them.
Taking campus safety and sexual assault seriously
Other universities affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas have not drawn the same national scrutiny. But they take seriously issues of campus safety, sexual violence and harassment, as well as compliance with Title IX, the law that addresses these issues at colleges and universities, administrators insisted.
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“It breaks my heart to see what has happened on other campuses, and I continue to ask the Lord to keep our students safe, so that they may pursue their academic goals free from harm,” Dallas Baptist University President Adam Wright said.
“However, we know we don’t just need to pray only. We need to pray and act. So, we have committed to do everything we can do to prevent a horrible incident of sexual violence on our campus.”
Communicating to students
Texas Baptist schools use new-student orientation, online resources and printed materials—as well as special emphases throughout the school year—to communicate to the general student population.
They also typically provide more specialized training for residence hall personnel and student athletes, as well as for university employees.
“We require all new students, faculty and staff to complete comprehensive training,” said Paula Tanner, vice president for communications and special projects at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. “Student organization members, student workers and student athletes repeat this training annually, as do a large group of designated employees.”
UMHB also holds a prevention and awareness program for incoming freshmen during Welcome Week and various programs throughout the year. They include chapel speakers, a National Night Out emphasis on sexual assault prevention, educational events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April and a social media blitz prior to spring break, encouraging students to “make healthy choices and informed decisions,” Tanner said.
Like many other universities, UMHB also participates in the nationwide “It’s On Us” student-led video and pledge campaign to eliminate sexual violence.
Houston Baptist University partners with Scenario Learning to use its online Safe Colleges training program, President Robert Sloan said.
“With Safe Colleges, the university is able to ensure a consistent and compliant communication of the various laws, rights and resources that are available to students,” Sloan said. “Additionally, all freshman-year seminar classes spend time discussing the online training and putting the issue into perspective. … The university’s athletic department has also conducted seminars on the topic of sexual harassment and assault for each of its athletic teams individually.”
Wayland Baptist University addresses issues of sexual abuse, assault and harassment in new-student orientation, in the student handbook, through health services programs, on a dedicated Title IX webpage and at mandatory meetings for dorm residents, President Bobby Hall said.
“In addition, specialized training is conducted for residence hall assistants, residence hall supervisors and all athletics staff,” Hall noted.
Hardin-Simmons University offers Title IX training for students, staff and faculty, said Stacey Martin, dean for student engagement and Title IX coordinator at HSU.
“Incoming students receive training, and refresher courses are held for various student groups across campus. The university has a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment or violence of its students or employees,” Martin said.
Howard Payne University similarly provides information through its administrative policies, online training for new employees and the student handbook, said Kyle Mize, assistant vice president for communications at HPU.
“In addition to the student handbook, we discuss sexual abuse, assault and harassment with student organization leaders and members as part of our annual risk-management training,” Mize said.
Orientation and training events
A “living in community” session at new-student orientation features a discussion of sexual abuse, assault and harassment, including information about the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, he said.
“The student code of conduct and expectations for behavior are also discussed in the beginning of each semester’s mandatory residence hall meetings with new and returning students,” he added.
Baptist University of the Américas provides information about sexual harassment and abuse in the student handbook, and all students are required to sign a form indicating they have read it, said Mary Rangel, vice president for student services and enrollment management at BUA.
Resident assistants receive training about when to intervene, and “more in-depth training for Title IX is scheduled for this fall semester for RAs and any other university personnel who are obligated to respond,” Rangel said.
DBU provides annual training about issues related to sexual assault, sexual violence, harassment and other sexual misconduct through varied approaches, Wright said.
“These include lectures for all our Foundations of Excellence classes, which are required of all incoming traditional-aged freshmen, presentations to all campus residents at the beginning-of-the-year university housing meetings, training for resident assistants and resident directors, presentations to all members of our student organizations, discussion with our Student Government Association and a training at the annual student-athlete kickoff meeting,” Wright said.
“We are also currently developing additional resources for students, including a Title IX website, campus safety magnets with important numbers to call, video resources and other educational materials to help our students understand these important issues.”
DBU administration uses multiple training venues to inform faculty and staff—including coaches, trainers, full-time and part-time employees—they have “an affirmative duty” to report any complaints regarding sexual assault or harassment, he noted.
“We believe it is both morally and legally vital that our faculty and staff report all allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual violence or other serious sexual misconduct directly to the Title IX coordinator,” Wright said.
East Texas Baptist University developed a Comprehensive Sexual Harassment and Nondiscrimination Guide it makes available to students in print and electronically. It outlines policies and procedures related to Title IX, along with other information on education and prevention of sexual abuse, violence and harassment, said Heather Hadlock, vice president for student affairs at ETBU.
ETBU also distributes a pamphlet regarding Title IX rights, options and resources to all students, she said.
“This document provides an overview of what actions constitute sexual assault, the reporting process and first steps, the disciplinary process, rights of victims and available resources,” Hadlock said.
Other training for ETBU students includes a session during Welcome Week for new students, mandatory residence hall meetings at the beginning of the academic year, and programs throughout the year to educate students about personal safety, available resources and bystander intervention.
“The director of security, compliance and accountability, who also serves as a Title IX deputy coordinator for students, conducts Title IX training with our student athletes, including athlete orientations, discussion groups, team meetings for overview and Q&A, and workshops and specific topic discussions with male athletes,” Hadlock said.
Resident assistants receive weeklong training from the Title IX coordinator prior to the start of the fall and spring semesters.
“While we understand we cannot prevent incidents of sexual assault from occurring 100 percent of the time, we do know that the more we talk about it and educate our students on safety, wise decision-making, bystander intervention and available resources, the less likely these incidents can occur,” Hadlock said.