SUNY New Paltz president participates in White House Task Force discussion to protect students from sexual assault

President ChristianSUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian was one of only a handful of invited college presidents at a White House event on Tuesday, April 29, highlighting the increasing concern about and attention given to sexual assault and sexual violence on college and university campuses, and outlining new federal initiatives.

This event was organized by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Vice President Joe Biden served as the main speaker on these topics. Others present included higher education representatives, leadership of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Task Force members, Cabinet members, several senators, including United States Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand, victim advocacy groups, and students.

“Preparing for this event reinforced for me the tremendous work that SUNY New Paltz has done and is doing to support victims, provide clear and equitable processes, and broadly educate and train members of our community to prevent sexual violence on our campus and in our community,” said Christian.

As part of an extensive audit of the entire SUNY system, the SUNY New Paltz campus recently underwent a thorough Office of Civil Rights (OCR) review of the college’s policies and practices. The OCR review of five years of New Paltz records did not find a single case of sexual assault or sexual violence that required further inquiry or that was not handled according to OCR best practices and standards.

“Not only did the OCR review indicate that we handled cases by OCR standards, but also that our longstanding practices, sharpened by the OCR review, are aligned with current federal expectations,” said Christian. “We should all be very proud of this record of excellent work, while we must also recognize the need for continuing improvement in this critical element of our campus climate and culture.”

The college’s educational and training efforts already include elements like risk and risk mitigation, misperceptions, bystander education via the “Step Up New Paltz” program, and collaborations with New Paltz tavern owners aimed at reducing excessive alcohol consumption, a clear factor in sexual assault and violence on college campuses.