When we send our children off to campus we want to know what is being done to help ensure their safety. As president of Northern Illinois University and a father of two daughters, I am personally and professionally committed to making NIU a safe and welcoming place. Let me provide a few examples of how we are diligently and proactively working to provide a safe living-learning environment.
- NIU maintains strong programs for reporting and response to sexual assault that include confidential advocacy, referral and support to NIU students impacted by sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. On campus we have strong partnerships between the police, advocates, counselors, criminal courts and student conduct to support our students, faculty and staff.
- Bystander intervention education and interpersonal violence prevention presentations through Health Enhancement & Victim Advocacy Services are designed to promote positive norms, behaviors, basic patterns of social interaction, values and customs.
- All incoming students will be strongly encouraged to participate in Haven, the new online educational module addressing the national problem of sexual assault, including prevention and bystander intervention. The content addresses individual behavior, environmental and social issues in addition to NIU policy information and resources.
- The NIU Department of Police and Public Safety offers walking escorts 24 hours a day and an after-hours shuttle service to ensure that our students, faculty and staff feel safe in our community.
- Co-policing efforts between the DeKalb and NIU police departments are specifically designed to reduce crime (including sexual abuse) in the university community and to improve response time and exchange of criminal intelligence. NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips has been instrumental in bringing many of these issues into focus.
We are also pleased to offer a community program that directly addresses sexual assault. NIU sponsors women’s self-defense training with the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) system. RAD enhances options of self-defense for women so they are given viable considerations when confronted with a situation.
Further, I am committed to continuing NIU’s participation in ongoing state and national discussions. President Obama signed into law the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in March, and in April the White House issued the First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. NIU Vice President and General Counsel Jerry Blakemore served on the negotiated rulemaking committee and also provided important insights into the challenges of addressing sexual misconduct on college campuses to the task force.
As a result of this input, the report includes a number of recommended steps universities can take to help identify, respond to and prevent campus sexual violence. Under VAWA, colleges and universities will institute new reporting requirements including expanding Clery Act reporting categories to include domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; instituting enhanced student discipline procedures; and adopting new institutional policies to address and prevent campus sexual violence.
To that end, I am announcing a presidential task force to provide guidance in implementing the VAWA amendments and White House Task Force recommendations for colleges and universities. I have asked Lesley Rigg, NIU vice president for Research and Innovation Partnerships, to chair the task force. Lesley has a personal and professional interest in understanding and preventing sexual assaults as one of our RAD instructors. Dr. Eric Weldy, NIU vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, will be co-chair, focusing his attention on reviewing our student conduct system, policies and procedures. Chief Phillips is also on the task force along with other key campus leaders.
While campus safety and sexual assault prevention are national issues, how we address them is uniquely NIU. By working together, we can make NIU an even better place to live and learn.