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UW System joins national collective to combat sexual harassment

UW System joins nationwide initiative to end sexual assault, following incidents of “passing the harasser” and required sexual harassment prevention trainings throughout System campuses. 

Image By: Katie Scheidt

To prevent sexual harassment, the UW System joined a nationwide initiative alongside 30 campuses Wednesday.

The Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education is a partnership with National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine compiling evidence-based research and current policies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment on campuses. 

All 13 System campuses signed separate letters in joining a collective of founding institutions — Harvard University, Northwestern University, the University of Michigan and Yale University.

The UW System is the only statewide system working in the collaborative. 

"This has affected our faculty, our staff and our students for way too long," UW System President Ray Cross said. "We have to step up our efforts to raise awareness in the workplace and in the classroom."

The goals surrounding the reduction and prevention of sexual harassment from the Action Collaborative are to: raise awareness, boost recognition of evidence-based institutional policies and strategies, compile locations where assault occurs and develop a standard for measuring process. 

In 2014, Cross created the Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment, which centered its attention on current and best practices of sexual harassment prevention over two years. 

Based on what the task force found, the Board of Regents created a new sexual assault and harassment policy in 2016, mandating sexual violence prevention training for all UW System employees and students. 

Additionally, they developed a new reference check policy and sharing personnel filed geared toward preventing “pass the harasser” practices. 

“Ensuring the safety of our students and our employees at every institution is one of the most important responsibilities of the Board of Regents,” said Regent Vice President Drew Petersen. “We strongly support the efforts of the Action Collaborative to help reduce and prevent sexual harassment in higher education.”

One of the first topics the coalition aims to tackle is how Title IX looks on college campuses. For example, UW-Milwaukee currently pairs their Title IX coordinator with the campus’ survivor support advocator, resulting in person-to-person training sessions within the university’s Greek Life community. 

Currently, they have held 15 training sessions, according to Jamie Cimpl-Wiemer, director of equity and diversity services at UW-Milwaukee. 

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