George Washington University administrators and faculty discussed the university’s sexual assault protocol, the Science and Engineering Hall (SEH) backfill plans and a resolution that would allow some staff to keep tuition reimbursement benefits at current levels during Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting, which was led by President Steven Knapp.
Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said the university is taking steps to align its sexual assault prevention policies with procedures suggested by the federal government and advocates for ending violence against women.
The White House’s “Not Alone” campaign and Task Force Report, the Violence Against Women’s Campus SAVE Act and the Bipartisan Campus Accountability Act illustrate national efforts to combat sexual assault, improve incident responses on college campuses and increase accountability, she said. Advocacy groups, legal scholars, faculty members, parents and individuals across the country have also weighed in on the subject.
The national conversation reveals the complexity of the obligations faced by campuses, as individuals debate balancing the rights of both parties in addition to addressing the requirements for survivor confidentiality and crime reporting, Dr. Reed said.
This year, GW added crime statistics and definitions of dating/domestic violence to its Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. The university also hired Rory Muhammad as a full-time Title IX coordinator and will hire an assistant director for sexual assault response and prevention.
To respond to the Department of Education's and the Department of Justice's increased oversight and address the nation’s call for more transparency and training among colleges, the university plans to improve its processes of confidential reporting; train first-responders to support victims and preserve evidence; improve partnerships with community-based organizations; clarify available protective measures for victims, all possible sanctions against perpetrators, and options and assistance for reporting to local law enforcement; and improve investigations and adjudications of all complaints.
The university’s ongoing actions to achieve its goals include a current review of a formal partnership with D.C. area universities and the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence that would enable the institutions to share training procedures, best practices and responses. The university is also finalizing an online module that will inform and educate faculty about GW’s sexual assault policies. The module will roll out next year, Dr. Reed said.
She added that the university has formed the GW Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, made up of three working groups. Student Affairs, Faculty Affairs, the GW Police Department and several other campus groups have been working with the committee to streamline messages, encourage campus training and share information with faculty.
In answer to questions from faculty, Dr. Reed said that the university is looking into ways to craft more coordinated responses to limit bureaucracy and give victims a clear path to follow in instances of sexual assault. She explained that the difficulty in reporting lies in confidentiality rules—for example, information shared with a counselor is often different from what is told to GWPD. A subgroup in the GW Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response is considering a flow chart to better map out procedures.
Following Dr. Reed’s presentation, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman discussed plans for Corcoran Hall, the original lab building located on 21st street; Bell Hall; Tompkins Hall; and the top floors of Phillips Hall. Each of these buildings will have significant vacant space when faculty and students move into the SEH.
Prior to determining how to utilize this space, the university conducted an extensive backfill study that examined how space is currently used and what space requirements are for various units, as well as the physical condition of facilities being vacated, Dr. Maltzman said. The study then mapped out a sequence for updating some of these areas.
“One of the top priorities for the backfill was ensuring that teaching space on campus was sufficient and met the needs and expectations of students and faculty,” Dr. Maltzman said.
As a result, significant portions of the locations studied will become teaching spaces, Dr. Maltzman explained. In particular, the spaces will replace some of the rooms lost when the university closes the classrooms in 1776 G and 2020 K street, and they will accommodate science-focused areas that will not be placed into the SEH.
When relocating departments, one priority was “thinking about the adjacencies that can occur between departments as part of the strategic plan that encourages interdisciplinary learning,” Dr. Maltzman said.
The two buildings that will receive significant renovations are Corcoran and Bell halls. Work will begin after a greenhouse and a biology/botany teaching lab are opened on the eighth floor of the SEH. After this, any biology and research spaces that are not accommodated in the SEH will temporarily move to Corcoran Hall, and then back to Bell Hall once renovations there are complete. The last major renovation called for in the plan is Corcoran Hall.
“Opening the SEH gives us a unique opportunity to both repurpose space in the heart of the campus and to update buildings that could benefit from infrastructure enhancements,” said Dr. Maltzman.
Overall, the backfill plan calls for GW to make the most significant investment on historic buildings like Corcoran and Bell Halls, which both need updating and are not on sites that can be further developed, Dr. Maltzman said. Some modernization updates will be made to Tompkins, Phillips and Rome Halls—three buildings that the university envisions utilizing for some time, but are located on parcels that could be further developed. The plan will be carried out over the next four years.
At the meeting, the Faculty Senate also passed resolutions to update language in its copyright policy and to examine changes to tuition benefits announced by the university in September. GW adjusted tuition remission to cover 90 percent of tuition compared with 96 percent previously and capped the total number of credits full-time faculty and staff employees can take to 18 per year. The changes are effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee introduced a proposal that would allow staff members employed before Dec. 31, 2014 to keep the tuition benefit policies that were available when they were originally hired. A discussion at the meeting clarified that the proposal would include any currently employed staff member who may want to take classes in the future. The Faculty Executive Committee said that the proposal is about the faculty communicating their support of the staff to the administration.
“When we change the rules of the game for students and faculty, we grandfather in,” said Kathryn Newcomer, director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and a member of the committee that proposed the resolution.
Dr. Knapp explained that the tuition benefit adjustment helps the university offset the rising costs of health insurance. The policy will save an estimated $750,000—an amount that will be applied toward GW’s health care plans. Because the money from tuition changes has already been shifted toward health benefits, reversing the adjustment would be an additional cost to the university.
“This is all about how we’re going to structure our benefits program,” he said.
He announced that he will establish a task force made up of faculty, administrative and staff representatives to review the university’s entire benefits program. The administration will consult with this task force when it decides how it will allocate benefit funds in the future.
The Faculty Senate also made plans to discuss resolutions on whether video recording should be allowed during its meetings after a student tried to record on Friday. Faculty Senate meetings are open to all members of the university community, and minutes are published following each meeting online.