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Collaborating with Colleges: Part 1

By Aubrey Sampson

Welcome to the Rural Realities Blog! This month’s blogs highlight engaging colleges and universities in your SART! The role of institutions of higher education has grown and expanded throughout time – from solely being entities of knowledge creation and transfer, to being entire communities with housing, commerce, and social life. And just like most of our rural communities, the resources available can vary from school to school/location to location. Medical centers, safety and security teams, counseling services, food pantries, career services, and even grocery stores have appeared within schools. In reality, a college/university is a microcosm of society so we can expect the function and form of this community will mirror our everyday, off-campus life. Most issues that are experienced in our lived communities can and do arise in these spaces as well. For us, this means that not only is sexual violence present, but there are people who support the response and prevention of this violence.

Colleges/Universities have a captive, high risk audience. Over the last few decades, many campuses have developed resources and policies that attempt to prevent harm, provide resources, and when necessary, hold students accountable for their actions. How can SARTs engage and interact with colleges/universities? What are our roles and how can we work together to address sexual violence?

To begin, let’s review a few key topics that could support your collaboration. While not exhaustive, these topics may be a starting point for initial questions and conversations amongst new collaborative partners. These topics are gathered from my experience working with a variety of institutions – from community colleges, to large state and small private universities. Understanding and leaning on these commonalities can support building rapport as it can be demonstrated that there is a common goal – addressing the needs of victim/survivors of sexual violence. When reviewing the topics below, please consider them as introductory concepts and ensure that you take time in integrating the specificities of your community.

Mandatory ReportingAll adults are required to adhere to any state required reporting for child abuse and abuse of vulnerable populations.All adults (staff, faculty, and students) are required to adhere to any state required reporting for child abuse and abuse of vulnerable populations. Additionally, due to Title IX regulations, most staff/faculty are considered mandatory reports (also referred to as Responsible Employees or Campus Security Authorities) and are required to complete a Title IX report should they receive a disclosure of violence that qualifies under Title IX. This requirement was made in as effort for colleges/universities to take responsibility for their community and requires them to offer resources and information to the affected individuals.
Reporting OptionsIf someone experiences harm, they can report to local law enforcement.If a student, staff, faculty, experience harm, they can report to local law enforcement. However, within the college/university they may have the potential opportunities to file additional reports such as a Student Conduct report, Title IX report or/and HR complaint. Students will still be able to access resources and supportive measures regardless of if they file a formal report. Note: Students can opt out of Title IX reporting at any time.
Access to ResourcesCommunity-based resources may vary, as can an individual's ability to access them.Due to tuition costs, most students can access campus resources at low or no additional costs. Universities are required to offer information and resources to all new students through their orientation processes. This could be an opportunity for you to offer support in linking them to community based resources. For rural communities, having these resources on campus alleviates the need to overcome transportation challenges.
Coordinated Community Response Communities may have SARTs at the county and/or state level. While the language around SARTs may be similar across communities, it is not consistent. Colleges/Universities have taken several routes in addressing sexual violence in their community. So, while you may not see a ‘SART’ active on campus, there may be a Presidential Advisory Committee, a Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT), a Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, a Title IX Consortium, or other alternative language that may not mirror outside the campus community.


So, who should you work with and how could they engage in your SART? Role clarity will make outreach and collaboration much easier. Consider how these roles mirror that of some that already sit on your SART. Consider the similarities and differences in their responsibilities and/or limitations.

PositionRole & Potential Connection
Title IX CoordinatorThis staff member should be a key point of contact for resources and reporting on and off campus. Note: All colleges/universities are required to have this staff position on campus.
Campus HealthDepending on clinic capacity, this could be a great resource for students to receive low/no cost general checkups, STI testing, and even gynecological appointments. They could be a great addition to a referral network. In rural communities, having an on campus medical forensic/SANE site could exponentially increase access to services for students without personal transportation.
Student Conduct (Rights & Responsibility)When considering accountability on campus, this office is tasked with upholding campus policies and any student code of conduct. These staff members are responsible for reviewing formal complaints about students breaking university policy/student code, holding hearings, and possibly providing consequences/sanctions. These decisions do have the ability to impact a student’s enrollment at the university. Sanctions can range from a reflection paper to expulsion.
Campus Safety & PoliceCampus capacity to host on campus security (non-law enforcement officials) or University Police (law enforcement officials) vary widely. Regardless, key considerations would be their role and jurisdiction. The need to connect to additional law enforcement entities outside of campus is necessary as students live dynamic lives that happen far beyond the walls of campus.
Victim AdvocatesStaff in these positions may be hosted out of the University Police, Counseling, or their own Victim Advocacy office. These providers are necessary for a community wide referral network. While these staff roles may mirror that of community advocates (hotline support, accompaniment to exams, court, or law enforcement reporting), they also have the unique role of navigate university specific policies and practices. This includes Title IX reporting, on campus housing changes, student conduct processes, and navigating academic support include class withdraws.
Violence PreventionSome campuses can provide violence prevention staff who focus on raising awareness of violence as well as crafting and hosting activities to engage the campus in topics such as consent. These staff may be point of contact for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) activities.
FacultyWith experts in criminology, sociology, psychology, public health, social work, and law and policy (to name a few), faculty could be great additions to SART projects and/or subcommittees. Their role could lean more towards technical pieces such as strategic planning and evaluation opportunities. Additionally, as teachers, they have access to up-and-coming professionals in the field which could provide a network for internships and volunteer opportunities.


We’ll continue this topic next week. Until then, email us at svji@mncasa.org if you have any questions!

 This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-04024-RURA awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.