UMBC president: 'We need to do much more' regarding sexual assault on campus

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County needs to do “much more” personal outreach in the aftermath of a lawsuit alleging the cover-up of sexual assaults on campus, university President Freeman Hrabowski III said Friday during an interview with The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board.

“I'm saying, straight up, we need to do much more. I’m saying that, while we thought we were doing the right things with the legal side, we had not really addressed [the] human side” of Title IX, Hrabowski said.

To that end, Hrabowski said on Friday that UMBC would start implementing mandatory training for students, faculty and staff on campus. He said the training would be in-person and live, rather than only online, and would focus on areas such as trauma, prevention and what happens during the reporting process after an incident.

“That’s going to mean hiring additional people,” Hrabowski said. “This is the bottom line: The university has committed to putting in the resources. It’s going to take more money.”

He estimated the cost for hiring consultants and staff, and for conducting training campus-wide, would total in the millions of dollars.

Hrabowski’s interview this week came about a month after the school was named in a lawsuit for allegedly covering up instances of sexual assault. An announcement from a university leadership committee and several student organizations followed, saying the school was working on several measures to review all aspects of sexual misconduct prevention and training, and awareness programs.

The announcement said the university would develop a scope of work for an outside expert to be brought in to review training and awareness programs. Also on the agenda are upgrading outdoor lighting, developing an online tool to report lighting or building security issues, and printing new campus identification cards that include emergency contact information.

A coalition of student activists demanded accountability from campus officials in September, following news that two women had filed a class-action lawsuit against the university and Baltimore County officials.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, was brought by two former University of Maryland, Baltimore County students, who say they were raped in separate incidents that they reported to university and county police. The two women allege in the suit that authorities humiliated, intimidated and deceived them as part of an intentional effort to “cover up justifiable complaints of sexual assault.”

A group of students quickly launched protests against the university and marched to Hrabowski’s office, where he listened to their demands and promised “some kind of external review.”

One of the original demands brought by students was for Paul Dillon, UMBC’s chief of police, to be removed from his job.

Dillon has denied students’ assertions and has sought to have claims about him in the lawsuit dismissed. Earlier this week he said he was working to rebuild the campus community’s trust in him and in the campus police department.

“I’m slowly going to start building that face-to-face trust” by meeting with and listening to small groups of students to understand what they’d like to see from the police, Dillon said.

Hrabowski said Friday he was no longer hearing from students around campus that Dillon should be dismissed.

Collin Sullivan, president of the university’s Student Government Association, said Friday the student body is “expecting change from campus police” but knows it won’t come overnight.

“That is rebuilding relationships, rebuilding community, seeing them more on campus in a visible way that doesn’t feel threatening or that makes people feel unsafe,” he said.

Bobbie Hoye, the school’s Title IX coordinator, said it would be “naive” to believe that every student on campus trusts or even knows what’s involved in reporting sexual violence or sexual misconduct.

“There’s a campus sense that there are things that can be better as it relates to the process. I think part of that starts with the understanding of the process,” she said.

Because of national attention directed toward UMBC when news of the lawsuit broke, Hrabowski said he’s been talking with other university leaders and would continue talking nationally about how to address sexual assault prevention and aftermath training.

He said the last few years surrounding Title IX regulations have been about “compliance” and following the letter of the law. Soon, the national conversation will shift to paying attention to an individual’s emotional needs, in addition to being compliant with the law regarding reporting incidents.

"The fact that we're having to spend so much time on this is a good thing,” Hrabowski said. “It's a good thing for moral reasons."

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to share thoughts and ideas by submitting a community input form online.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Bobbie Hoye. It has been corrected here.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

cboteler@baltsun.com

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