Level Five: Changing Organizational Practices

Level 5: Changing Organizational Practices
Adopting regulations and shaping norms to prevent violence and improve safety

Campuses are made up of a multitude of smaller organizations and communities each with its own unique culture and norms. Activities at this level may focus on specific academic departments, faculty senate, student organizations, athletic teams and departments, media, or residence hall communities, among others. Level 5 focuses on improving the internal culture and norms of these sub-groups and organizations around gender, sexual violence, and relationships. For example, offering bystander intervention training to student leaders in fraternities and sororities could work to change norms around intervening when they witness inappropriate behavior during a party.  Another example is encouraging the student health center to distribute brochures about healthy relationship and healthy sexuality.

High rates of alcohol use and abuse is common on campus, and social norms surrounding alcohol use often encourage unhealthy consumption. Excessive use of alcohol is also correlated with sexual assault on campus. Collaborating with campus groups working on decreasing alcohol use and abuse is another opportunity to influence the norms and practices around drinking. If underage drinking is a problem on your campus, consider ways that you can tie drinking culture to sexual assault in a non-victim-blaming way to promote healthier behaviors. Perhaps reaching out to local bars and bartenders about their role in preventing sexual violence by becoming active bystanders could also be effective.  For more resources on alcohol and sexual violence on campus, visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/campus-resource-list.

Campus media is another important cultural institution on campus and an outlet for raising awareness and disseminating messages about prevention of sexual violence. The NSVRC has created, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, three op-ed articles specifically for campus media. Click here (http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/campus-op-eds) to view these op-eds (they are available in Word format so you can customize and edit them).
In 2007, University of Vermont President Daniel Mark Fogel established the President’s Commission on Social Change to lead the way in a campus-wide anti-violence initiative following the rape and murder of a UVM student. The mission of the President’s Commission on Social Change (PCSC) is “to make recommendations to the President, acting as a catalyst and advocate in addressing key challenges facing the health and safety of UVM’s campus community.” The Commission is composed of subcommittees that address the following:

  •  Bias (including race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation)
  • Gender-based and sexual violence
  • Alcohol and other drug use/abuse
  • Sexual Violence Response Team (SVRT)

Committee members are responsible for researching, monitoring, and reporting on the status of the campus community’s health and safety as it relates to each of these areas. Committee members identify institutional efforts to deal with challenges to health and safety and review policies and programs that could be implemented to improve these areas. Members then collaborate with other campus leaders and organizations to ensure that recommendations are implemented (after approval by the larger commission and the President). The commission monitors programs after implementation and assists in evaluating the effectiveness of each implemented recommendation.

While still a fairly new entity, the gender-based and sexual violence committee has successfully led the way in changing practices related to sexual and interpersonal violence on the UVM campus. After reviewing the Athletic Department Code of Student-Athlete Conduct, committee members, in collaboration with athletic department staff, updated the policy to include more specific language on violence and stalking, thereby strengthening it and showing commitment on behalf of the athletic department to protecting student safety. 

More recently, the committee has been working with the Student Government Association to create and publicize a Victim’s Bill of Rights. In addition to having campus policies related to gender-based & sexual violence, the committee wanted to create a document that was student friendly. To help spread the word about resources and services for victims of violence and their rights, the Women’s Center and student leaders plan to conduct a public education campaign once the Victim’s Bill of Rights is completed.  An additional goal was to emphasize that the UVM community supports victims of gender-based and sexual violence.
The PCSC provides an opportunity for leaders across campus, from diverse organizations and departments, to work together on issues of sexual violence prevention and response. The commission also provides an opportunity for individuals working on overlapping topics, like sexual assault and alcohol use, to share knowledge and expertise in developing new policies and programs. By creating this commission, the President has shown his commitment to raising awareness about and decreasing sexual violence at UVM, and has opened up the dialogue around the issue, an important element of long-term social change. By creating an interdisciplinary team with administrators, faculty, staff, coaches, law enforcement personnel, healthcare providers, and students, organizational change across campus can happen more quickly and effectively. 

For more information about UVM’s President’s Commission on Social Change, visit http://www.uvm.edu/~presdent/?Page=commissions/pcsc/socialchange.html&SM=submenu5.html