Morehouse and Spelman Partner in Effort to Build a Safe and Healthy CommunityDate Released: January 29, 2018
By D. Aileen Dodd
Soon after Dr. David A. Thomas was appointed as the 12th President of Morehouse College, he scheduled a meeting with Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell to discuss strategies in which the neighboring colleges could collaborate to end sexual misconduct at the Atlanta University Center and create a safe and healthy community.
The meeting last fall led to the discussion of common goals, sparking the beginning of a new partnership.
Last week, the community approach to fighting sexual misconduct at Morehouse and Spelman was also endorsed by those who investigate cases and support victims.
For the first time, more than 25 Title IX employees, executive leaders, and faculty representatives from Morehouse and Spelman met as a group to discuss opportunities for joint educational outreach to prevent sexual misconduct. The group also discussed best practices for handling cases. The networking meeting was held at the Davidson House, where President Thomas resides.
“What I have come to recognize is that in the last two years Morehouse College has made significant strides around the issues of Title IX,” Thomas said. “We don’t have a backlog of cases. We have a Title IX Coordinator, which two or three years ago, we didn’t have. We have a much more skilled group of people hearing those cases who received specialized training.”
Faculty, staff, and students at Morehouse also receive specialized training on preventing and reporting sexual misconduct. Approaching the issue as a community matter, however, shows that Morehouse and Spelman are committed to working together to end sexual violence, promote gender equality, and support healthy relationships, adds Terraine Bailey, Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Specialist at Morehouse College.
“This is a new era for the Title IX program at Morehouse College,” Bailey said. “We are fortunate to have leadership and support on this critical issue from the Office of the President. In his brief time on campus, Dr. Thomas has already begun to set the tone for how the College will advance its awareness, prevention, and outreach efforts and make Morehouse a leader in this global conversation. It makes all the difference in how our students, faculty, and staff embrace our program.”
In February, all Morehouse employees must complete the sexual misconduct prevention course, “Haven for Faculty & Staff.” The two-part online course will help employees learn how to navigate the dynamics of supporting those who have been affected by sexual misconduct, including intervening in potential situations of harm and reporting incidents. The goal of the course is to create a support network so that student victims can feel comfortable sharing their stories with Title IX staff or other employees who can report cases.
Morehouse has a zero tolerance policy toward sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“We will investigate any claims filed with our Title IX office,” Thomas said. “Our Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures guidelines provide for disciplinary action, including dismissal if any student, staff, or faculty member engages in inappropriate behavior.”
Faculty members agree that addressing issues of sexual misconduct are of high priority for the College. It was the topic of conversation at the faculty retreat.
“The faculty has a retreat once per semester,” Thomas said. “What you put on that agenda sends a signal about what’s important. This year, we only had two topics– our reaccreditation and issues related to preventing sexual misconduct and creating a safe and healthy community.”
Morehouse also has programs in place to educate students about sexual misconduct, including the “Not In My House” campaign, which emphasizes that violence, discrimination, and disrespect will not be tolerated at Morehouse College. Student leaders, residence assistants, athletes, and campus organizations participate in bystander training that focuses on their roles in spreading the message that sexual misconduct is prohibited. The program teaches trainees how to safely intervene when they see someone who may need help.
In addition, Morehouse’s Healthy Campus Task Force— an outreach of students, staff, and faculty members working in collaboration with the Georgia Independent College Association— is working to raise awareness about sexual misconduct and strategies to prevent incidents.
Today, the task force is sponsoring the screening of The Voiceless, a documentary about male survivors of sexual violence. The film will be shown at from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Bank of America Auditorium. It will be followed by a discussion on the issue.
Last Modified: January 29, 2018, 16:01 PM, by: Kara Walker