Herbst Authorizes Immediate Steps to Promote Campus Civility

UConn President Susan Herbst has authorized the immediate implementation of several recommendations in a new task force report, including designating a University office as a single point of contact to help student crime victims navigate UConn’s processes and services.

The action is among several recommendations in a wide-ranging report from the President’s Task Force on Civility and Campus Culture, which Herbst created last summer with the direction to provide “specific recommendations that are both effective and practical” to support civility, respect, and UConn’s core values.

Specifically, Herbst asked the members to look closely at ways to deter and address sexual violence of all kinds, harassment, intimidation, bullying, incivility, and other behaviors that are detrimental to students and the UConn community as a whole.

Herbst presented the report to the University community on Friday. She says that while these issues are of national concern and are not unique to UConn, the University is committed to combating sexual violence, serving victims, and updating its policies and resources on an ongoing basis.

“Our goal is to remain at the forefront of the battle against sexual assault and harassment by doing all we can to mirror best practices nationally, and to be a leader in the field,” Herbst said in a letter to the campus community to accompany the report’s release Friday. “We seek not only to emulate others, but also to be a model for other colleges and universities across the nation. Today, we take another step in that direction.”

The task force consisted of a diverse blend of faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, directors of student centers, academic administrators, Police Chief Barbara O’Connor, and representatives of UConn Athletics.

Some of their recommendations are being immediately implemented at Herbst’s direction, and several others are being reviewed in more detail to determine how or if they could be implemented.

In addition to directing staff to designate a University office to serve as a central point of contact for student crime victims, Herbst says some of the other initiatives immediately going into effect include:

  • Providing additional support and resources for services that specifically target sexual violence prevention, including training to help bystanders intervene in effective and appropriate ways when they witness events that may endanger their fellow students.
  • Expanding and enhancing programming on prevention of sexual violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unhealthy relationships; better advertising for self-defense programs; and repeating mandatory training on sexual violence prevention at various times throughout students’ years at UConn.
  • Supporting and assisting a student-led drive to eradicate the use of the alarming and unfounded nickname occasionally used to describe the walkway to the Celeron apartment complex.

UConn’s work doesn’t end with those initiatives or the many other task force recommendations that are under review or in the planning process, Herbst says. Rather, UConn is committed to constant and candid conversations about ways to improve services and promote core values of civility, safety, and mutual respect.

“And yet we all know very well that our work is never truly finished, particularly when it comes to the issue of sexual violence on our campuses,” Herbst wrote in her letter Friday.

“Our policies, procedures, services, and resources must be reviewed and reimagined on an ongoing basis,” she said. “This will ensure we are employing the best strategies to combat sexual violence and provide victims with the help they need.”

A committee of administrators led by Michael Gilbert, UConn’s vice president for student affairs, also reviewed the task force’s report and said in an overview to Herbst that the recommendations on education and programming are “the most critical in the task force report and would have the greatest impact on students and the student experience.”

The task force held several public meetings and open forums throughout the fall and into early winter with students and the UConn community, and told Herbst in its report that it found students were eager for what they called “safe spaces where their voices can be heard, and listened to” with respect and acceptance.

“Our recommendations address many aspects of UConn life, from the general to the detailed, but all are focused on making the identity of ‘Husky’ synonymous with the best that education can offer through an inclusive environment that respects, nurtures, and learns from our differences,” the task force wrote in its report.

The report and President Herbst’s letter to the community can be read in their entirety at http://president.uconn.edu/communications/