President’s Posts

Michael Rao, Ph.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University continues to invest in the success of all of our people, and that includes a significant ongoing university-wide commitment to the protections guaranteed by Title IX.

In the 45 years since Title IX became federal law, prohibiting discrimination based on sex, countless people once marginalized have gained equal opportunity in higher education and the greatest chance to realize their potential in ways that benefit all of us. Our nation and world are better for it.

At VCU, we embrace these protections. Consistent with federal law, VCU prohibits discrimination based on protections guaranteed by Title IX and take them a step further to include not only sex but also gender identity.

This helps create an environment where people can succeed because of who they are, not in spite of it. And this matters:  Research shows that students — especially from intersecting marginalized populations — are far less likely to experience sexual assault and are far more likely to be engaged and to achieve academically when a university’s environment is inclusive.

That is why we have invested more than $1 million in the last few years for resources to support Title IX and in developing our office of Equity and Access Services. While I recognize that we still have work to do to ensure that there is inclusion, access and equity everywhere — and we always will — I am proud of the gains we have made together.

For example, we have a dedicated steering committee — composed of representatives from administrative divisions across VCU — that meets regularly with our Title IX coordinator to assess our needs related to Title IX and help guide the further development of our program. We have enhanced our Title IX training to help students who may encounter language, cultural or other barriers in our standard training. Students are now offered an additional training module on consent, in addition to their required training.

Soon, we will offer a module featuring students across a spectrum of gender identities and expressions — an intentional focus on diversity — as sexual assault can happen to anyone and affects us all. In addition, faculty and staff participation in Title IX training has increased in just a year to 82 percent.

VCU Police and The Wellness Resource Center are recognized leaders in sexual assault response, support services and programming. We support national initiatives like Fear 2 Freedom and It’s On Us, and we continue to look for ways to enhance understanding, awareness and prevention for every member of the VCU community. We also note that April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and events like Denim Day on April 26 will be hosted on our campuses.

I appreciate the work of so many colleagues to advance our efforts related to inclusion, access and equity around Title IX. You are helping build an environment of trust at VCU. Our 2016 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Violence and Bystander Behavior showed us that:

  • 75% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they understood VCU’s formal procedures to address complaints of sexual assault.
  • 77% think the university would handle the report fairly, and 78% think university officials handle incidents in a fair and responsible manner.
  • Survey responses reflect increased understanding and willingness to engage in bystander behaviors compared to 2015 responses.

We will continue to conduct this survey every year to inform our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault and help us track our progress and as part of our larger university commitment to access and inclusion at every level.

Finally, I am proud that Side By Side recently chose VCU as the recipient of its prestigious Catalyst Award, honoring our work around LGBTQIA+ inclusion. This is a meaningful symbol of our commitment — and the work of so many — to ensure that VCU is a place for everybody.

Thank you for all you do. You make a difference for so many.

Categories 21st-Century University, Community, News, Periodic update, To VCU
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