Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul discussed a new Cuomo administration effort related to campus sexual assault prevention and policies at New York state's private colleges at a meeting last week with members of the Daemen College community.
Hochul's visit to Daemen was the first to take place at a Western New York private college as part of a statewide tour to talk about elements of the proposed legislation. With this, a new state policy implemented in December at SUNY campuses would be extended to include private colleges statewide so that uniform procedures and guidelines are in place at both private and public institutions.
"I'm pleased to report that New York state's independent institutions, like Daemen, have consistently given this important campus safety issue the absolute highest priority as we strive in unison to uphold a college culture that does not tolerate sexual assault violence on our campuses," Daemen President Gary A. Olson said. "Daemen has a long history in being proactive in campus sexual assault prevention, education and response, and we have been vigilant in responding to the national call for robust comprehensive policies. We look forward to working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the lieutenant governor to ensure students are well protected at institutions across the state."
In addressing this issue, Hochul emphasized, "To best protect our students on New York state's campuses, our goal is to have the same comprehensive sexual assault policies and procedures applied at both public and private colleges. Conversations like this one are vital to learning how we can work together to make this happen while also respecting the rights of victims so they have the resources and support available that will allow them to heal."
The discussion included a viewing of the statewide "Enough is Enough" campaign video, which features students, advocates and elected officials in support of the governor's policy on sexual assault on college campuses.
Hochul, who praised Daemen for its strong campus-wide efforts in sexual assault prevention and response, said sustained messaging to educate each college community is key to confronting this issue.
"It's important to have consistent, continuous dialogue about sexual assault to keep this in the forefront and create a campus culture where there is zero tolerance for these crimes," she said.
At Daemen, the college's comprehensive measures have included the formation of a sexual assault prevention and education task force, which has been charged with taking a holistic look at the college's policies, procedures and services. Also, a campus climate survey was recently completed to determine ways to improve the college's educational efforts and programming.
"As a college community, we take the welfare and safety of our students very seriously, and it is essential we provide a safe, supportive campus where they can live and learn," said Dr. Greg Nayor, vice president for student affairs. He has led the college's efforts in collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Boone, associate vice president for academic affairs/associate dean and the college's Title IX coordinator.
Nayor, who serves as co-chair of the Western New York Consortium of Higher Education Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention and Compliance Task Force, added, "Colleges and universities throughout the Buffalo/Niagara region have pulled together to collaborate on educational programming and to share best practices and resources."
In addition to Olson, Nayor and Boone, other panelists participating in the discussion included: Ken Baker, director of campus security; Haley Brown, president of the student association; Rebecca DeWitt, resident assistant; Capt. Steve McGonogle, Amherst Police Department; Robyn Witorski-Reynolds, director of advocate programs at crisis services; and Tyler Russell, vice president of the SA. The panel also included a sexual assault survivor and advocate from crisis services.
Daemen President Gary A. Olson listens to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.