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Northland College addresses sexual assault after a report last year
Students and administration at Northland College in Ashland are joining forces to bolster sexual assault awareness and prevention. Danielle Kaeding reports.
The move comes in response to reports of a sexual assault on campus in the last year.
Northland College Student Association President Emily Loker says she first learned about reports of alleged sexual assault when a sign posted across campus took aim at the administration's response. Loker was surprised. She says she never felt unsafe and didn't think it was an issue on campus.
"After looking at that sign, I was very upset that the individual felt that was the only way they could seek help to get the administration to notice. But, it also made me realize that there are incidences on campus and that they can happen to anyone."
Northland College President Mike Miller says there have been two incidents of alleged sexual assault on campus in the last year.
"That's fairly typically of us as a campus. We don't have escalation in terms of numbers, but obviously any case is of serious concern."
Northland College Student Affairs Vice President Michele Meyer says the college has completed its investigation into the reports. But, she says their findings remain confidential under federal law protecting student privacy.
"We want to set up safe places and confidential places for students to bring forward their claims so we can investigate them and we can hold people accountable."
Northland has reported no incidents of sexual assault in its annual safety and security reports from 2010 to 2012. The reports are made in compliance with the federal Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities that receive financial aid to report crimes. However, Northland did receive an allegation of sexual assault in 2012. Meyer says it wasn't included in their annual report because law enforcement deemed the case unfounded.
"That is one of the components of Clery if law enforcement determines it to be unfounded than it can not be counted as part of the crime statistics."
Ashland Police Chief Greg BeBeau says the case is unfounded at this time due to a lack of evidence. He says the case hasn't been closed out completely.
Meyer says staff and students are now working to educate about the response process and work with them to improve campus safety. Loker says she's impressed with how students and staff are working together.
"Really just more knowledge needs to be spread about what to do to prevent sexual assault. More knowledge needs to be spread that it does happen on our campus and what happens after something is reported is another thing that wasn't clear to people before."
Miller says Northland College now plans to hire new staff in the dorms later this year. He says students and staff are also working together to offer bystander training to help students identify and prevent at-risk behavior. Miller says the training is much like programs to take away keys from drunk drivers.
"Instead of just taking the keys and if someone is in a position to not make good choices, then someone needs to be a good enough friend and neighbor to say, 'Let's do something else now,' and stay with the person."
Miller says that training will be required for athletic teams.
"That is not to say that we have a problem more or less within athletics, but it certainly is an area that the national research says those kinds of behaviors - sexual misconduct - happen at a higher rate nationally within those populations. We want to make sure that we don't leave anything left undone."
An open forum is being held to take and answer questions about sexual assault at Northland College at 7 p.m. in the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute on campus.
(Danielle Kaeding is station manager with Northland College radio station WRNC)Previous KUWS Articles:
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