Georgia college system launches campus safety initiative

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Georgia college system launches campus safety initiative

The state’s public university system plans to implement a system-wide safety initiative over the upcoming academic year to provide consistency across campuses for ensuring student safety.

Key to the plan will be hiring a system-wide coordinator to handle sexual violence cases and mandatory sexual assault training for all freshmen students at the system’s 30 public colleges and universities.

The new initiatives were included as recommendations in a campus safety review completed and presented today. In August, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby commissioned a task force of campus faculty and staff, student leaders and system administrators to review campus safety policies, including campus police, crime reporting and the handling of sexual assaults.

The committee recommended implementing all of the recommendations before or during the 2015-2016 school year, a plan that was approved Tuesday by the state Board of Regents, the governing body of the University System of Georgia.

“We are about educating students and increasing the number of Georgians who have completed college. To continue to do this, we must provide our students, faculty and staff a safe environment, and we will apply best practices at each campus,” Huckaby said. “This is a fundamental change in the way we have been operating across our system of institutions.”

Most of the campus safety initiatives will be uniformly conducted across the entire system, with some opportunities for schools to tailor things like trainings and student surveys to fit individual campuses.

Sexual assault training will be mandatory for all campus employees to help identify and prevent sexual violence and harassment, as well training for campus police on responding to sexual assaults and addressing mental health needs. Also required across the system will be annual training for campus officials in charge of enforcing federal sexual violence rules and investigating those cases.

The system also plans to create a website for all campus crime reports, and require schools conduct a climate survey at least every two years.

The University System initiative comes as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has extensively reported on how sexual assault cases are handled on Georgia’s college campuses. The AJC reported earlier this year that state campuses — facing pressure from the Obama administration — are expelling and suspending students accused of sexual assault but the schools vary widely in how they handle the cases. The AJC also found that prosecutors are failing to bring criminal charges in campus rape cases.

The full University System safety committee report is available here.

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