Winthrop University: Parents and Families - September 1, 2021
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Parents and Families - September 1, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

​Thanks to the dedication and tireless work of our outstanding staff and faculty we have managed to successfully complete the first full week of classes. ​In this past week we managed to do so many things we were not able to do last year because of COVID. So far, we have learned that we are able to do the things we associate with a more typical beginning to a new academic year​​, ​such as Convocation and in-person classes,​and to do them safely. Our COVID risk mitigation efforts have included encouraging vaccinations, requiring a negative test to start the academic year (if not vaccinated) and requiring masks in all campus buildings and indoor activities. Clearly, we want to offer a healthy and safe campus environment so that we can have as normal an academic year as possible.

Heads up—this is a long email but contains important updates regarding student concerns about Title IX on our campus.  Please persevere and read to its conclusion. 

You will recall that last semester some of our students voiced concerns regarding the safety and security of our campus, especially as it relates to sexual harassment and discrimination. I pledged then and today want to reassure students that we listened and have responded to those concerns. Furthermore, I want to provide an update on our response.

Over the summer we developed a new position at the university dedicated to Title IX. Our university counsel, Caroline Overcash, headed a search committee that included a student, CSL President Erin Emiroglu, and other representatives from the Winthrop community. The search committee will conduct initial interviews this week to determine if candidates should be offered an opportunity to interview on campus, where there will be additional opportunity for campus community involvement.

Also, over the last few months we updated our new interim sexual harassment policy and recently incorporated the latest guidance from the Biden administration. The executive officers approved the interim policy, and it is available on the Title IX website and in the policy repository. We do expect the need to continue to update the policy as more guidance is released by the Department of Education.

In the run up to classes, we posted ​additional signage around campus encouraging students to reach out through the Title IX website and Maxient reporting portal if they believe they have been a victim of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination while at Winthrop. We hope the signage, along with programming throughout the year (see more on this below), will increase student understanding of the availability of Title IX services and encourage reporting.

This summer we also made major changes to ourgrievance, or complaint resolution, procedures. In the new procedures, all decision makers or appeal officers in the Title IX investigative process will be external to the university. Also, on-campus investigators will be selected from a pool of faculty and staff members who volunteer for the role and receive training from a law firm specializing in Title IX matters, including how to effectively investigate and report findings of an investigation. This should better serve students and reduce any potential conflicts of interest.  

We recently changed our required student online safety training from Not Anymore to a two-part online training called Campus Safety and Prevention Training which focuses on sexual misconduct prevention as well as alcohol and other drug use. Students should be receiving emails with a link directing them to the training. We also used the summer months to review general campus safety and building security in response to student concerns.

Student programming is being determined for the year ahead, and efforts are underway to raise the visibility of sexual assault and an understanding of victims’ rights, supportive resources, and processes to hold perpetrators accountable.  For example, in September, for Campus Safety Awareness Month, we will offer programs on a number of these critical issues, including events by the Student Advocacy and Trauma Support on the high risk of sexual assault in the beginning of an academic year (Red Zone), as well as a men’s program to encourage respectful manhood/masculinity.

I will add that Title IX awareness and training has been completed for student groups and other staff who often are among the first to hear from students about sexual misconduct. These groups include Resident Assistants, West Center and Campus Center staffs, FYE Peer Mentors, Orientation Leaders, and the DSU Programming Board.

Once we have a dedicated Title IX coordinator, s/he will begin work on a number of other commitments that we have made institutionally to address students concerns over issues surrounding sexual assault and our processes. I would like to thank all the staff who have worked on so many of these initiatives over the summer months to put us in a position to better serve our students this fall.  

As I said at the beginning of this communication, we want to offer a healthy and safe campus environment to our students so that we can have ​a safe and productive academic year ​for all. We are off to a great start and will continue our work to achieve these goals.

Sincerely,

George

George W. Hynd

Interim President

 

Last Updated: 7/13/22