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Gender-Based Violence: Finding a Path Forward

Photo by Evan Krape

A message to the UD community from President Dennis Assanis

Dear UD Community,

At the University of Delaware, we were all deeply disturbed at the horrific news earlier this week of a case of gender-based violence in our community. We take any incident concerning safety, crime or sexual violence very seriously; the safety and well-being of each and every member of our campus community is, and always has been, a top priority. The University of Delaware has no tolerance for gender-based violence, and we strongly condemn it.

When I learned about the recent serious incident of domestic violence involving two of our students, I felt angry. I felt sad. And I felt an intense pain for any woman — or, for that matter, any human being — who would be subjected to such a horrible experience of violence and disrespect.

Everyone is concerned about the welfare of the student who was attacked, and I ask that you join me in keeping her in your thoughts in the days ahead.

Many students have expressed anger, fear and frustration about this incident, and they should. There is no place for gender-based violence at the University of Delaware, and I assure you that necessary University protocols and processes pertaining to accountability and compliance were put in motion as soon as the University learned about what happened.

I also want to acknowledge that while the University’s operational response was immediate, our community outreach following the incident was not as timely as it could have been, thus regrettably creating a perception that our campus is unsafe. We simply did not live up to our aspirations, and we all want to do better. As a first step, I am going to assemble a task force of external specialists and internal stakeholders to suggest best practices and recommendations to improve our management of all efforts pertaining to safety, crime and sexual violence in the future.

Now, as we continue to connect with one another to reflect, share and learn about how we can take steps forward, I want to update you on current efforts to advance that progress:

(1) Meeting with Student Leaders: Earlier this evening, several of my administrative colleagues and I met with a group of student leaders for an engaging discussion on gender-based violence. We listened and shared ideas about what we can do to help our campus community in the future. I truly appreciate the insights of our students, hearing perspectives that included ideas about more student involvement in an advisory capacity, working together with administration, advancing sustainable change to impact culture over the long-term, and opportunities to examine fraternity and sorority life on campus. I also applaud the efforts of the students who marched for justice this week to ensure that this issue gets the attention it warrants. We need to express, engage and act, and I am so proud of our students for standing together for such a critical purpose.

(2) Conversation and Comfort: This event will take place tomorrow from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the South Green during UD Re-coop Day. UD’s Center for the Study & Prevention of Gender-Based Violence invites students, faculty and staff to come together for information, conversation and support as we process the events of this past week together as a community.

(3) Improving Student Safety: The University of Delaware Police Department (UDPD) has already been working on initiatives to improve safety on our campus, and these efforts will be accelerated, including enhancements to the current ride program on campus to improve response time, new offerings for the safe transportation of off-campus students, and active assessment of campus areas that can benefit from enhanced lighting.

(4) Teach In & Listening Session — Cultivating Campus Safety: On Tuesday, October 19,, from 4-6 p.m. at Mitchell Hall, our Center for the Study & Prevention of Gender-Based Violence will host a Teach In and Listen session in partnership with the Division of Student Life to provide educational context for gender-based violence on our campus. A panel discussion will focus on understanding and addressing the issue of gender-based violence in campus settings. This event will feature expert faculty and advocates, and attendees will be heard in theme-based listening sessions, underscoring how we can educate our community on the issues on gender-based violence and the issues surrounding it. We are privileged to have this distinguished center on our campus, which is well-known for integrating scholarship with community activism.

(5) Creating University-wide Accountability:We need to live up to our own standards, constantly challenging ourselves to do better. Any situation in which our students do not feel safe is unacceptable. As I mentioned, UD will engage external experts and internal stakeholders in a review process to improve timely campus outreach and compliance requirements aimed at reinforcing a safe environment free from sexual violence and crime.

(6) Ongoing Programming to Learn and Raise Awareness: We will continue to introduce new opportunities for members of the UD community to learn and interact with relevant experts from our own campus and beyond to advance our understanding and empower our abilities as agents for positive change. As an example, the Biden Institute will bring experts to campus to help students develop their voices and bring about the change they want to see in our community. In addition, I have already reached out to the Delaware state Attorney General to assemble leading advocates and organize a forum to listen, learn, advise and educate our Blue Hen community about how to prevent domestic violence and protect victims of gender-based violence.

These are just some of our most immediate action steps; we can and we will do more. This campus inspires me for so many reasons, and that includes our shared efforts to listen to and support each other as we forge a path forward to overcome the challenges of our society, and especially gender-based violence.

Sincerely,

Dennis Assanis, President

 

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