Welcome to a Culture of Respect
Einstein famously said that a problem cannot be solved with the same thinking that created it. On campuses across America, the problem of campus sexual assault is finally coming to light. A number of new, savvy advocacy groups and courageous survivors have prompted unprecedented media coverage and even new federal laws and guidelines. Universities are also taking a hard look at what they can do to stop sexual assaults on their campuses. To effectively end this problem requires a new way of thinking.
Rather than focusing on individual actions by perpetrators, we need to see the forest for the trees and shift a culture that, in many unconscious ways, gives perpetrators a pass and leaves survivors to fend for themselves. Universities must focus on building and maintaining what we have coined a Culture of Respect on their campuses.
A Culture of Respect:
- proactively fosters a campus community that is inclusive of all students;
- is transparent and as such it creates opportunities for conversation about difficult issues;
- creates safety and trust for every member of the campus community; and perhaps most importantly,
- is built on a solid foundation of equality, in which every voice is weighed equally, and none are dismissed.
Compare a Culture of Respect to the culture we read about each time a campus sexual assault story breaks in the papers. Some groups on campus foster cultures that are openly hostile or predatory toward women. Policies and procedures are opaque and survivors who choose to report are left for months with no word on what is happening. And when a perpetrator is found responsible, some punishments would scarcely qualify as a slap on the wrist. These ineffectual punishments may actually do more harm than good by sending the message that rape and sexual assault are ‘no big deal’.
But a cultural shift is already beginning. Signs of progress are everywhere.
For the past year, Culture of Respect has been meeting with college and university administrators across the country to hear what they are doing and to learn what they need to tackle campus sexual assault. Most universities understand that when some of their students sexually assault nearly a quarter of the other students they can’t be fulfilling their academic mission, nor their societal role. They are genuine and urgent in their efforts to end rape on campus.
What they need is a blueprint for what to do.
In addition to coming into compliance with the law, institutions of higher education must focus on developing proficiency in six specific areas:
- Empowering campus activist organizations;
- Creating a robust, multi-tiered, and ongoing education program for students and educators;
- Creating proactive, positive survivor support policies with options on reporting;
- Fostering thorough public disclosure of campus sexual assault policies, issues, and statistics;
- Establishing clear policies on adjudication and penalties;
- Mobilizing the entire community and engaging in ongoing self-assessment to identify opportunities for improvement.
Together these six areas form the CORE (Culture of Respect Engagement) Blueprint for how to build a Culture of Respect on campus. The CORE Blueprint is, and will continue to be, a work in progress. It presents the opportunity to learn from our colleagues and their work in ending sexual assault and we welcome ideas and improvements from anyone sharing our goal to end rape on campus.
Culture of Respect is the new thinking that we believe will be necessary for all constituents at colleges and universities as they answer the call to ensure all students are safe to pursue the promise of higher education.
To learn more about our work, visit www.cultureofrespect.naspa.org.