Photo by Sarah Vincii | CIGAR | The director of the Women’s Center recently attended a conference to learn about CORE, a new program that the University plans to implement.

The University of Rhode Island will participate in a program known as The Culture of Respect, or CORE, over the next two years to fight against sexual assault, domestic abuse, stalking and other sexual violence issues on campus.

“That initiative ideally, over the course of the two years, will have extensive improvements both in our policy, our procedure and our response and support of individuals who are experiencing sexual violence,” Penny Rosenthal, director of the Women’s Center, said.

The Culture of Respect was established in 2013 to strengthen sexual violence prevention and response on college campuses. In 2016, the program joined NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. URI is part of the second cohort of colleges to join the program. After President Dooley appointed a sexual violence prevention council over the summer, staff applied in the fall to take part in the program.

CORE calls for the establishment of a campus leadership team that will collect data on how the campus handles sexual violence. The group will then send their findings to the Culture of Respect, who will give the University suggestions on how to improve university response to sexual violence. Rosenthal wants the team to consist of extensive student representation from a variety of student organizations, in addition to faculty and staff representatives.

When asked why the University chose this particular program to combat sexual violence, Rosenthal stated that staff liked how the program is evidence-based. Rosenthal also said that the staff felt that the program’s a mix of “ease, but also a bit of a tension” when addressing a problem as complex as sexual violence. Rosenthal also said that the program was the most financially reasonable, as it was “a really an affordable solution to a very complicated challenge.”

According to Rosenthal, the first year of the program costs $4,000 and the second year costs $2,500. The money supports resources, publications and technical support from CORE. Funding will come from the University itself, coming from both the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity and the Division of Student Affairs.

Kathy Collins, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs, said that one reason that drew her to the program was that of how it encourages collaboration between colleges.

“I like working with other campuses from around the country because we don’t have to recreate the wheel,” said Collins. “We can share resources. Also, the pilot happened two years ago, so we can learn from schools that already participated [and find out] what worked and didn’t work on other campuses.”

Collins also suggested that students discuss this issue with their friends that attend other colleges to see what those institutions are doing about sexual violence and to share those ideas with the campus leadership team.

When asked how students can get involved with preventing sexual assault on campus, Collins said that besides joining the campus leadership team students can participate in assessments from the program, become aware of the resources available on campus and get bystander training at the University’s “I Stand” training program.

“The most important thing is the work you all do as students,” Collins said.

The CORE assessment will continue until Dec. 2019. After the program expires, the University will use its findings to improve upon their own responses to sexual assault. However, both Collins and Rosenthal said that preventing sexual assault on college campuses will be an ongoing process.

“I understand the institutional and systemic problems that can be present in large institutions to get something to shift and change,” said Rosenthal. “This (program) gives us the path to walk to begin to make improvements, and it is incredibly exciting to me.”

Those who would like to learn more about the program can visit www.cultureofrespect.org.