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Sexual harassment training completed by all UW staff, most students

Sexual harassment training completed by all UW staff, most students

Lincoln statue on UW-Madison campus (copy) (copy)

The UW Board of Regents met last week on the UW-Madison campus. 

All University of Wisconsin System employees and 87 percent of students have completed sexual assault and harassment training, officials told the UW Board of Regents Thursday at Union South on the UW-Madison campus.

The regents are scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday. After public business on Thursday the board moved into closed session to discuss a number of issues, among them the contract of UW-Madison head football coach Paul Chryst. 

The online training is one of several aspects of the UW System’s response to an increasing focus on sexual harassment nationwide and within the university system.

The UW's effort to address sexual assault and harassment gained momentum with the #MeToo movement, which resulted in a sharp increase in reports of sexual misconduct. Notable cases include the resignation of UW-Whitewater Chancellor Beverly Kopper in December after allegations that her husband, who held a university position, allegedly harassed women on campus, and the retirement of Harvey Jacobs, a UW-Madison professor of urban planning, amid allegations that he had harassed women on campus for decades.

And last year the Madison campus reported that the state paid $500,000 to settle harassment cases over the past decade.

The training status was reported by Shenita Brokenburr, the UW System’s top human resources official.

While the training has reached the vast majority of students and staff in the UW System, System President Ray Cross said there’s still much more to do to stifle what some have said is a toxic and pervasive element of the campus environment.

“We’ve got to change the culture,” he said.

Other goals of the Sexual Violence and Harassment Priorities Work Group, appointed to ensure that recommendations from a similarly named task force were enacted, are still works in progress.

Cross convened the task force in 2016 to provide recommendations that would ensure compliance with state and federal requirements regarding sexual harassment and assault, promote a culture of prevention, encourage timely reporting and effective responses and to serve as a clearinghouse for resources for training, research and best practices. The work group, an extension of the task force, gave its final report to the regents on Thursday. It made a series of recommendations:

  • Continue the effort to get all employees and first-year students to take sexual misconduct training on prevention, reporting and resource awareness.
  • Make resources available for periodic advanced training for employees who respond to reports of sexual misconduct.
  • Develop policies at each campus that conform with regent policies regarding consensual relationships and sexual assault and harassment.
  • Step up technological efforts to collect data on incidents.
  • Allow individual institutions to develop processes of record keeping, training and response, as long as those efforts fall within specific parameters.
  • Develop a standard process for sexual assault incident reports, from a central office for intake through final determination.

The aim is to "get those reports into one single area that they can be assessed for what the appropriate response would be and what the required response would be," said Christopher Paquet, the chair of the work group.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.

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