Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Fostering Collective Impact: A Holistic Approach to End Sexual Violence Through Collaboration and Expert Guidance

Whitman College has joined the two-year program Culture of Respect, a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) initiative that brings together colleges nationwide to end sexual violence through ongoing, expansive organizational change. The initiative works in tandem with other policies like Title IX.

NASPA is an NGO dedicated to guiding colleges in principles of integrity, innovation, inclusion and inquiry. Culture of Respect is a program stemming from NASPA and fitting into their priorities, including ensuring safety for college students. 

“Culture of Respect was founded in 2013 by the parents of college-aged students who were alarmed by the high rate of sexual assault on campuses and the lack of comprehensive resources for survivors, students, administrators and parents. They convened a team of public health and violence prevention researchers and experts in advocacy, student affairs, higher education policy and law to develop the first editions of the Culture of Respect organization,” Culture of Respect’s website said.

As established by the Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to disclose information about specific crimes on and around campuses for the three most recent calendar years. In 2020, three rapes were reported to the College. In 2021, that number increased to six. The College’s most recent Annual Security Report, released Oct. 1, 2023, included three reported rapes. Accurate reporting is made more difficult by a lack of disclosure

“To truly shift our culture, we must work to end violence in all our institutions, including workplaces and schools. Culture of Respect is proud to bring our six-pillar framework and public health approach to these schools,” Culture of Respect’s website said

Jennifer Henkle, NASPA’s Director for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, shared that Culture of Respect was born with the idea to help colleges and universities provide resources for students to battle sexual violence on campus. 

“Our core evaluation is meant to assess schools and see how they are currently operating and providing services on sexual violence response. Afterwards, we work with them for two years and implement an action plan based on the areas of opportunity where they can really improve and provide better services,” Henkle said. 

The Collective is a two-year program that guides cohort institutions through a process of self-assessment and targeted organizational change. This approach recognizes the unique needs of each college or university and delves deeper into the multifaceted responsibilities of Title IX coordination. 

“It is really about figuring out what each individual college or university needs. It is, for example, a must to provide ongoing survivors’ support and straight-forward policies. However, Title IX coordination is a lot more than just that. It takes a lot for a school to make this commitment, we hold you accountable and make sure that you are doing what you said you were going to do. This is a great first step to move towards a culture of respect,” Henkle said. 

Establishing new community norms is key to generating substantial change, especially as initiatives only succeed if students feel comfortable disclosing. Through working with multiple cohorts across the nation, the Collective hopes to enact substantial programmatic and policy changes.

“Each diverse cohort of the Collective relies on an expert-developed public health framework, cross-campus collaboration, and peer-led learning to make meaningful programmatic and policy changes,” said the Collective’s website. 

As it advances the Collective’s mission to combat campus sexual violence, the heartbeat of its efficacy lies in the dynamic interplay of each element within its diverse cohort. It serves as the lodestar, fostering cross-campus collaboration and empowering participants through peer-led learning. 

The program’s adaptability is a benefit as it works to include stakeholders from various departments who are often siloed. Cross-department communication is especially key as sexual violence is a multi-faceted issue and susceptible to changing social and political landscapes.

The Wire was unable to interview Kersten Bergstrom, Assistant Director of Community Health Programs and Sexual Violence and Cassandre Beccai, Director of Equity and Compliance prior to publication. They both look forward to sharing more about the initiative and its ability to create profound change. 

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