President's statement on prevention of sexual violence

Dear Members of the Cornell Community,

Sexual violence, including rape, occurs with disturbing frequency in society and on campuses across the country—people of all genders are victimized while in college, including approximately one in five women. On April 29, the ]White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released Not Alone, a report containing a set of action steps and recommendations based on national conversations with thousands of people who care deeply about the issue. The report identified two main goals: to tell and demonstrate to sexual assault survivors that they are not alone and to help colleges and universities meet their obligation to protect students from sexual violence. It is the first in a series of Task Force recommendations that will directly affect Cornell and every institution of higher education.

Insights and strategies in the White House report will bring benefits that are only as strong as each college's or university's commitment to preventing and effectively responding to sexual assault. At Cornell, we act on our intensely held belief that sexual violence must not be tolerated. We welcome these new guidelines that support our efforts to establish a comprehensive approach to sexual violence prevention and response.

Workgroups of faculty, staff, and students of Cornell's Council on Sexual Violence Prevention (CSVP) spent much of this semester examining approaches used elsewhere, considering the particular nature of the diverse Cornell community, and developing goals to move the campus forward. At the CSVP's April 2014 meeting, the workgroups presented recommendations that strongly align with those of the White House Task Force, including expansion and improvement in these areas: data collection; educational programs for students, faculty and staff, and other prevention initiatives; comprehensive support services for survivors; and reporting and enforcement mechanisms. An action plan based on these recommendations is being developed now, and it will be informed further by the White House Task Force report.

We are fortunate to have in place already many of the White House recommendations. Among them:

  • Those affected by sexual assault have access to confidential services, including Cornell's Victim Advocate, medical care and counseling for students at Gannett Health Services, and the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP).
  • The campus community has access to 24/7 services related to sexual assault, through the local Advocacy Center, SANE Nurses (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) at Cayuga Medical Center's Emergency Department, CUPD officers trained to investigate reports of sexual assault, and Gannett phone consultation.
  • Respect at Cornell, an online training program, is designed to educate faculty and staff on their reporting and consultation obligations, should they become aware of an incident of sexual violence. More than 6,000 faculty and staff have completed the program to date.
  • Men at Cornell are actively involved in creating awareness and preventing sexual violence through the Wingman 101 bystander intervention campaign and the recent White Ribbon campaign coordinated by MASV (Men Against Sexual Violence).
  • We offer a variety of programs that educate our students about sexual violence prevention and establish caring community standards, starting during New Student Orientation and in the first-year residence halls.
  • We provide information about these and other programs and services on a dedicated website:

Each of us and all of us are responsible for the change we want to see. Over the next few months we will review the resources and timeline required to advance recommendations from the White House, as well as those specific to Cornell. Preventing sexual violence requires insights, plans, and actions from across our community. Those affected need the respectful caring of friends, family, teachers, and co-workers. I urge each of us to consider our part in this effort, and in particular, I call upon the men of our community to provide leadership in challenging sexual violence in all its forms.

With the confidence that comes from my years as a member of this remarkable, caring community, I know we will, through individual and collective efforts, continue to improve our campus culture by providing a safe and supportive community to all who study and work here.


David J. Skorton