- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia university system’s governing board on Tuesday adopted a statewide plan to prevent sexual violence, requiring student and staff training and setting minimum standards for reporting and responding to such crimes at every campus.

The system’s Board of Regents backed those and other recommendations developed by a committee that has studied campus safety since September, particularly sexual violence.

Chancellor Hank Huckaby told board members that the system-wide approach, rather than a variety of plans on each campus, is the best way to ensure schools across the state are safe. Colleges and universities can’t complete their main mission of educating students without that, he said.

“We’re going to hold everybody accountable to the same bar,” he said following the meeting.

The committee’s plan calls for all of the recommendations to be implemented by the end of the 2015-2016 school year, with a focus on openness and uniformity across the state. Schools will perform regular “campus climate” surveys to measure the effectiveness of training programs and programs responding to sexual violence. The panel asked that all campus safety reports and other information be posted on a single system website easily accessible to students, parents and others.

The group of students, administrators and staff also recommended that the university system hire a Title IX coordinator to ensure all campuses follow that federal law, which prohibits any sex discrimination in education including sexual harassment.

The plan requires employees and all students to complete training on reporting and preventing sexual violence. That includes freshmen before arriving to begin their first semester.

Azell Francis, a Georgia Southern University graduate student who served on the committee, said she believes educating students about how to report crimes, where to get confidential counseling and other services will make a difference.

“The more educated we are, the more we will feel empowered to prevent sexual misconduct on our campuses,” she told board members.

The plan is a “good first step” indicating top officials in Georgia are committed to preventing violence and recognize the value of training, said Alison Kiss, executive director of national nonprofit the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

“Regardless of your school size, students are watching these experiences as they happen,” Kiss said. “If a student comes forward to report and has a bad experience that can have a chilling effect on others.”

The board on Tuesday approved a committee to focus on alcohol and drug abuse after members of the campus safety panel recommended it. Committee members said alcohol in particular plays a large role in reports of sexual violence and should be studied on its own.

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