A current student walking into Baylor’s Title IX Office, Counseling Center or Police Department might not be cognizant of the expansive improvements now a part of the everyday operations of these groups, but these offices have expanded physical space, increased staff and enhanced policies and processes to further promote awareness, prevention and response to the needs of students impacted by sexual violence.
At the heart of the improvements, and the significant investments of time, money and resources, is the wellbeing of Baylor students. Changes to policy and procedure only become meaningful when students report that they feel cared for and are safe.
Following a year of change and progress since the findings and recommendations resulting from the external Pepper Hamilton review, the university continues to provide updates about ongoing developments.
The list of improvements crosses all areas of the university, and a summary is available online at baylor.edu/thefacts. Some of the areas most impacted by Baylor’s improvements on behalf of students are described below. These examples are centered around areas most accessed by individuals who have experienced sexual assault, interpersonal violence or stalking. However, all students seeking help from the Baylor University Police, Counseling Center and Title IX Office are benefitting from these improvements.
Throughout the 2016-2017 academic year, more than 2,000 students met with a staff member at the Baylor University Counseling Center, whose services range from helping students adjust to college life, overcome depression and manage anxiety to trauma-related services for survivors of sexual assault. The total number of students served represents a 62 percent increase from the previous year, and the demand was met by hiring experienced staff, adding physical space and offering additional clinical services.
The university’s investment in the work of the Counseling Center communicates a commitment to supporting students who need care. In January 2017, a second Counseling Center location opened with 7,630 square feet devoted to group therapy rooms, a relaxation room, therapist offices, trauma services and more. Baylor allocates a combined 11,880 square feet in the McLane Student Life Center and Dutton Avenue complex to students’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
When students arrive at either location, they interact with a trauma-informed staff member. The entire clinical staff has received additional training on the best ways to provide treatment for students after a sexual assault or other traumatic event.
Thanks to an increase in staff—from eight full-time members a year ago to 22 today—students do not experience a waiting list for services. Baylor now has one full-time clinical staff member for every 750 students, which exceeds recommended standards. The International Association for Counseling Services recommends a minimum of one staff member to every 1,500 students, and the average for academically rigorous private schools is around one for every 1,000. Baylor students benefit from the increased staff both in terms of access and expertise. Several new clinicians have specialized experience working with trauma survivors, patients with eating disorders, and persons with drug and alcohol addictions.
One such staff member, Liz Noble, is a confidential advocate and licensed counselor. Students who have experienced a personal crisis often need an advocate to manage details of their academic lives. Hired in November 2016, Noble helps students in crisis with anything from locating a new place to live to meeting with a professor to explain difficulties attending class.
Students seeking care at the Counseling Center benefit from additional clinical services. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 25 different group therapy sections were offered—more than twice the number in 2015-2016—including social anxiety, sexual assault support and recovery for drug and alcohol addiction. The Counseling Center expanded its hours; evening and lunch hours were added to accommodate more students’ schedules and needs. Additionally, students are aware that help is always a phone call away. The Counseling Center hosts a 24-hour crisis line that connects students to a Baylor clinical staff member in a time of need.
When a student interacts with a Baylor police officer, whether in a friendly exchange on campus or an emergency situation, the student is speaking with a highly trained, trauma-informed professional. BUPD officers exceed requirements set by The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which mandates officers complete 40 hours of training every two years. Annually, Baylor officers complete an average of 100 hours of training, including 32 hours of Title IX, Clery Act and sexual assault response training.
BUPD works to remain proficient and up-to-date with trainings. When the university updated its Title IX policy this spring, Baylor’s Title IX Coordinator Kristan Tucker led a two-hour training session for BUPD about the new policy. This helps students involved in a Title IX-related incident because first responders are aware of the university’s policy, process and resources that are specific to Baylor students.
This investment in training allows BUPD to maximize the effectiveness of an investigation while minimizing traumatization or re-traumatization for students involved. Beginning with the initial response and continuing throughout the investigation, Baylor police engage in thoughtful strategies to ensure the process is informed by the needs of the trauma victim while being mindful of the need to collect forensic evidence.
In the last two years, BUPD added 11 commissioned officers and two dispatchers to its professional staff of 38 officers and 10 dispatchers. These additions make the department the third-largest law enforcement agency in McLennan County and help ensure that students are safe. The BUPD staff includes four investigators, including two officers who specialize in sexual assault investigations—Sgt. Molly Davis and Officer Kandy Knowles.
Before coming to Baylor, Davis investigated crimes against children and worked with victims of sexual assault through the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office. Knowles volunteered in victim services in Waco before becoming a police officer and has served as the BUPD crime victim liaison for several years. Interacting with experienced officers who are both kind and competent is invaluable to students who have experienced sexual assault.
Partnering with the Waco Advocacy Center and participating in McLennan County’s Sexual Assault Response Team, BUPD contributes to the wellbeing of Baylor students on and off campus. Students benefit from this commitment through officers and dispatchers in BUPD’s Field Training Program participating in training at the Waco Advocacy Center. This gives officers the opportunity to learn where the Advocacy Center is located, more thoroughly understand the services it provides and build relationships with staff, which in turn helps officers connect Baylor students to this vital community resource, should help be needed.
Baylor’s Title IX Office is now one of the largest in the Big 12 Conference. The physical space has almost doubled and the staff has expanded following a $4.3 million investment by the university. A new Title IX policy is in place, and the implementation of a nationally recognized prevention program is underway.
The revised Title IX policy, informed by leading experts in the field, has been approved, implemented and distributed to all faculty, staff and students. Students engaged in a Title IX report experience a consistent and equitable policy that addresses sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. An amnesty provision has been incorporated to break down potential barriers to reporting. And, the university has clearly defined terms within the policy, increased awareness of the policy, and worked to ensure the process of reporting is clearly understood.
The Baylor community has access to reporting options 24 hours a day. The Title IX website provides a simple place for students to begin. Under the “reporting” tab, students find ways to report an incident of sexual violence—online reporting, anonymous online reporting and contact information to report in-person or by phone. These reports receive prompt attention from Title IX staff, who respond with an email or phone call. The staff provides information about the student’s rights and available resources.
“It’s On Us BU” flyers are posted across campus in hundreds of sites. The information includes 24-hour contact information for the Title IX Office and information about other campus resources.
Students, faculty and staff also participate in extensive awareness, education and prevention training, including strategies aimed at stopping interpersonal violence before it occurs. Training is tailored for specific audiences, such as first-year students, fraternities and sororities, varsity athletes and club sports teams, all new staff, faculty and graduate student instructors, among others. Additionally, all faculty, staff and students are now required to complete an online Title IX training module each year.
In August, students, faculty and staff will begin to see the implementation of an innovative prevention initiative called Green Dot. Green Dot engages the entire community in supporting safety, increases awareness of what each person can do to prevent interpersonal violence and ensures students know resources they can draw upon to promote safety.
While extensive, these will not be the only improvements to systems, processes, resources and support for students. Baylor is on a course of continuous improvement to ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of all our students.