Centre College, a small liberal arts college of 1,400 students in Danville, Kentucky, prides itself on putting student safety first. Centre is a close-knit college community where 98% of students live on campus, often sitting down to eat with faculty and staff. And nowhere has their commitment to the safety of the entire community been more evident than in the college’s inclusive approach to sexual assault prevention. Aware that an exclusive focus on students alone would be insufficient in tackling the problem, Centre broadened its sights to involve faculty and staff in a comprehensive campus prevention effort.
“In August 2014, Centre College unveiled an updated Sexual Misconduct Policy intended to send a clear statement against sexual misconduct,” said Centre College President, John A. Roush. “The purpose for this update was motivated first and foremost by our campus-wide commitment to our community’s safety and well-being.” The first step was to bring the disparate policies located in student and faculty handbooks together in order to create a revised, overarching Sexual Misconduct Policy for the entire campus.
So when it came time to search for a partner who would help them match that policy with educational programs for student and employee training, and data to drive strategy, Centre College did their due diligence and evaluated their options. Their goal: to find an organization that had experience with every step in the prevention process. “What made Vector Solutions (formerly EVERFI's Campus Prevention Network) stand out was their focus on prevention,” says Kay L. Drake, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Human Resources and Administrative Services. “Not only were their programs compliant with Title IX and the Clery Act, but they could actually help us collect actionable student and employee data, and move the needle in a substantial way.”
Campus-Wide Programming for Students, Faculty & Staff
Centre College’s initial launch of Vector Solutions' online sexual assault prevention program was comprehensive, involving the full student body as well as incoming first-year students, who were required to take the program alongside AlcoholEdu for College, Vector's online alcohol education program, before their first semester began.
But Centre College did not stop there. In order to make programming truly campus-wide, college administrators expressed interest in a parallel program designed specifically for faculty and staff, which would complement and track with the student program already in place. As a result, Centre College also came to adopt Vector's separate online sexual assault prevention program built specifically for employees. Extending programming to faculty and staff proved to be a prescient move. “The training helps alleviate fears, allowing faculty and staff to feel more comfortable with their roles and what they need to do,” says Kendrick Durham, Director of Campus Activities.
Working together with Vector's research team, Centre College administrators then performed an analysis of the impacts of implementing the program with faculty and staff. The results were impressive, showing a 43% positive change in respondents who agreed that sexual assault is a significant issue at the institution, and a 30% positive change in faculty and staff who reported having a good understanding of the institution’s procedures for responding to sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment. Upon completion of the program, nearly half of participants sought further information or training in this critical area. Centre College has responded in a number of creative ways: through question-and-answer sessions with faculty and staff, sexual misconduct incident management training for the Title IX team, the creation of templates listing sexual assault resources for students away from campus, and the development of additional job aids and resources for employees in sensitive roles.
Turning Data into Action
“All along the way, Vector Solutions has added research-driven insights that have helped us improve our sexual assault prevention work,” says Ben Nelson, Human Resources Generalist and Training Coordinator. Not content with mere compliance with federal Title IX and Clery mandates, however, Centre’s administrative team has consistently been ahead of the curve in its approach to sexual assault prevention. To start, administrators drew upon on data culled from the program for their own student population. Then, in order to gain further campus-focused data, Centre College went on to deploy Vector's sexual assault climate survey with its students. Although recommended by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, these confidential student surveys are not yet federally mandated—yet another example of Centre’s forward-looking approach to prevention.
Armed with these data, it was then time to take action. In addition to briefing senior staff on key findings, Centre College’s prevention staff also organized an ad-hoc committee of students, to solicit student feedback and participation. To be as effective as possible, efforts were made to include as wide a cross section of students as possible, including student athletes and members of fraternities and sororities.
Today, student participation in prevention has risen to the point where fraternities and sororities have begun requesting that campus officials come to speak to them about sexual violence.
“Students want to talk about what is happening specifically at Centre College, and the data from Vector Solutions has helped get to that level of conversation,” says Kendrick Durham. “This data allows us to engage the students and make that conversation real.” Based on this progress, Centre College is now working with its Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Committee to initiate a student-driven bystander intervention program.
Building on Tradition
Centre College’s approach to sexual assault prevention demonstrates the effectiveness of data-informed outreach, both in training faculty and staff on their roles and responsibilities, and in motivating the student body to conscience and action. As President Roush puts it, “a better understanding of these important issues allows our faculty, staff, and students to make improvements to our programs and services to protect, educate, and support all students—preparing each of us for more excellent lives of learning, leadership, and service.” With Vector's help, Centre College has been able to combine a longstanding history of safety and caring with evidence-based online programs, and data to hone their work and involve more actors in the prevention process.