The content on this page is from the Initial Charge to Commissioner’s Task Force on Campus Safety and Violence Prevention. You can download the full document here.
At its first meeting of the 2014-15 academic year, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education declared a “zero tolerance” for sexual violence, including “stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, harassment and sexual assault, which can have devastating effects on individual victims, as well as serious negative consequences for colleges and universities.”
The zero tolerance statement was a follow-up to a 2008 campus violence prevention initiative which included the establishment of a campus safety and violence prevention work group. With the assistance of a consultant, the work group conducted a study and prepared a report entitled, Campus Violence Prevention and Response: Best Practices for Massachusetts Higher Education (June 2008).
The 2008 best practices document, though a solid document for its time, has its shortcomings. Drafted in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, it focuses almost exclusively on active shooter violence and does not fully address campus sexual violence, including the risks of assaults of minors on campus.
Sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are serious problems. An estimated 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, and the risk of sexual violence is higher for college women ages 18-22 than for non-college women in the same age demographic. This is an issue at campuses nation-wide, and the Commonwealth’s public and private colleges and universities are not excluded.
In addition, much has changed on our campuses and in the world at large since the 2008 best practices document was issued nearly seven years ago. It is time for the report to be evaluated and updated to include most recent guidance on active shooter prevention and response, to assess its implementation at the campus level, and to include recommendations specific to campus sexual violence.
Finally, the document must be reviewed to ensure inclusionary and culturally sensitive practices to help ensure that public higher education institutions are safe and supportive environments for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. A review of campus safety recommendations should include an analysis of cultural competency training for faculty and staff, and the development of system-wide response guidelines on hate crimes and incidents of bias against members of protected classes.
The Department of Higher Education secured additional funding in the FY2016 budget to conduct this assessment. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in December 2015 to support this work.