VERMILLION, S.D. — University of South Dakota officials said they’re taking steps to better train staff and students on proper ways to respond to sexual assault.
The comments came at a campus forum held Monday on sexual assault awareness that drew a near-capacity crowd. It followed the arrests late last month of two university football players on rape-related charges.
A $300,000 grant was gifted to the university in October 2016 to educate students on sexual assault and offer more campus resources, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported .
The grant came from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, according to Kim Grieve, vice president of student services and dean of students. The grant’s goal is to turn the university into a safe place for every student, Grieve said.
Many students at the Monday forum noted they’re not required to receive training on avoiding or reporting sexual assault incidents.
“There is online training available,” said Grieve. “Students must complete the training, but currently we don’t have a ‘hold on account’ capability (to ensure students complete the course), but we highly encourage students to take the training.”
Students at the forum also mentioned a waitlist for services at a campus counseling center. Debra Robertson, a coordinator at the counseling center, said the waitlist may be misunderstood and noted that individuals experiencing trauma aren’t ever initially placed on the waitlist.
“Counselors are trying to contact everyone who contacts the office,” Robertson said. “We are interviewing for an additional counselor, and anyone who requires medical services is seen immediately.”
University officials said they’re formulating a strategic plan to work with the grant money, which will be revealed in a kick-off event planned for January.
Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/