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UW System Joins National Effort To Prevent Sexual Harassment

Action Collaborative Focuses On Evidenced-Based Strategies

Ann Althouse (CC-BY)

The University of Wisconsin System joined nearly 30 other colleges, universities and research institutions across the country Wednesday in an initiative to combat sexual harassment.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has formed the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, partnering with schools nationwide to use evidence-based research and policies to reduce and prevent sexual harassment.

Founding members of the collaborative includes Harvard University, Northwestern University, the University of Michigan and Yale University.

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All 13 UW System institutions have signed separate letters of commitment of the goals of the collaborative. The UW System is the only statewide system taking part in the collaborative.

“This has affected our faculty, our staff and our students for way too long,” said Ray Cross, UW System president, at UW-Milwaukee, where he made the announcement. “We have to step up our efforts to raise awareness in the workplace and in the classroom.”

The UW System has focused its attention on addressing sexual harassment issues in recent years. In 2014, Cross created the UW System Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment, a two-year investigation of current and best practices.

The result was the creation of a new Board of Regents’ sexual assault and harassment policy in 2016 which, in part, mandates training in sexual violence and harassment for all UW System employees and students.

Last year, the UW System began a new policy of reference checks and sharing personnel files aimed at preventing the “pass the harasser” practice.

The UW System’s participation in the coalition was announced at UW-Milwaukee where the university’s chancellor, Mark Mone, said many prevention efforts are also underway.

One of those efforts includes pairing UW-Milwaukee’s Title IX coordinator with the campus’s survivor support advocator. The two have been holding in-person training sessions with members of UW-Milwaukee’s Greek Life community.

“Historically, this is a high-risk population for sexual violence and because we are seeking their support as campus leaders in supporting and sharing resources for survivors of sexual violence,” said Jamie Cimpl-Wiemer, director of equity and diversity services at UW-Milwaukee.

So far, students have had 15 training sessions, Cimpl-Wiemer said.

Cross said the UW System joining the Action Collaborative reflects its ongoing dedication to addressing the persistent problems of sexual harassment and sexual violence in society.

“At the UW System we are taking this very seriously,” Cross said. “Our goal is to provide a safe and healthy working environment for our faculty, our students, our staff and our visitors.”