MSU weighs in on national push to prevent sexual assault


MSU weighs in on national push to prevent sexual assault

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The federal government launched a new website as part of an effort to protect students from sexual assault. President Obama kick-started the effort in January with a taskforce.

Statistics released by the White House show one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. They say most often it will happen during a woman's freshman or sophomore year, and in a great majority of the cases, the victim knows her attacker.

Sexual assault is a problem universities across the country deal with, including Montana State University and the University of Montana. We took a closer look at how the issue is being tackled locally.

Dean Matt Caires tells us preventing sexual assault has been a major part of campus discussions this year.

"There's a lot of attention, locally, statewide, but also nationally on what the role universities have with sexual assault and most importantly, sexual assault prevention," said Caires.

Two fraternities agreed to permanent sanctions earlier this school year, following two alleged sexual assaults.While Caires could not comment specifically on those cases, he did mention the school is making changes to the online Alcohol EDU program that students are required to complete.

"We think our students need to know more about the adverse impacts of alcohol and the realities about sexual assault before they step foot as a college student," said Caires.

Alcohol EDU is a program similar to one University of Montana students are required to complete, called Personal Empowerment Through Self Awareness.

In the past at MSU, students have been required to complete the course in the fall semester their freshman year. Students who failed to complete the online program could not get their grades or register for classes.

Starting in the fall of 2014, school officials are making sure students have a good grip on the issues before they even get to campus.

"We collectively got together and made a decision that we will now be requiring all of our students to do those education programs during the summer before they come to campus," said Caires.

Students and parents will get letters in the mail reminding them to complete the course.

When it comes to matters like this, Caires says they are staying focused on the bottom line: "Reaffirming our commitment that sexual assault will not be tolerated in our community."

We read through the fact sheet released by the White House. It discusses bullet points like providing specialized training for school officials, giving schools guidance on how to improve their investigative and adjudicative protocols, and helping schools forge partnerships with community resources.

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