The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has hired California-based consulting firm Grand River Solutions to help the university to better prevent and respond to sexual violence and misconduct, the university announced in a campus-wide email Monday.
The contract is for one year, said Elizabeth Moss, UMBC’s executive director of procurement.
UMBC announced the start of the “Retriever Courage” initiative in early November to document the school’s work in addressing sexual violence and misconduct following high-profile lawsuits and student protests over the way the university has handled cases of sexual abuse in the past.
“I’m saying, straight up, we need to do much more,” UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski said during an interview with The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board in October.
The lawsuits, filed in September, alleged that authorities from UMBC and Baltimore County humiliated, intimidated and deceived them in an intentional effort to cover up sexual assault complaints.
Most recently, Baltimore County officials and others have filed a motion to dismiss the claims brought against them.
The consultants, Jody Shipper and Cherie A. Scricca, co-founded Project IX, a nonprofit consultancy group that helps universities and schools comply with Title IX. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The consultants and others on the Retriever Courage Implementation Team will work to “review current university processes, policies, procedures, and practices regarding sexual misconduct” to see what is and isn’t working. The university said the team will have a “broad scope” and look at measures like training efforts and support for those hurt by sexual violence.
Already, UMBC has implemented mandatory Title IX training for faculty, staff and student leaders. A training committee, as part of the Retriever Courage initiative, is exploring options for expanding training to the general student body; that work will be aided by the outside consultants, UMBC officials said.
The first campus community update on Retriever Courage work is expected in early February, as most students are not on campus during most of January, UMBC officials said.