KU creating four-person office devoted solely to preventing sexual violence on campus

New center envisioned to shift burden away from other university units that also deal with sexual violence

Kansas University is creating a four-person office devoted solely to preventing sexual violence on campus.

The new KU Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, or SAPEC, will serve as the “central coordinating office” for KU’s sexual assault prevention and education programming, according to a Wednesday KU news release announcing the creation of the new center.

The initial cost for the center is expected to be approximately $200,000, which includes the four employees’ salaries and benefits, plus office equipment, university spokesman Joe Monaco said. He said KU is not receiving any new funding for the center but rather will identify money from existing sources.

The center will be in addition to KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which investigates reports of sexual violence (and other forms of discrimination on campus) and recommends disciplinary action when a student is found responsible for sexual misconduct.

The Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, created in 2012, has led KU’s educational programming and sexual violence climate surveys. Other KU units including the Office of Public Safety, Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Watkins Health Services also have done educational programming.

The new center will shift education and prevention away from them, allowing those units to focus on their “core functions,” according to KU.

“While the university already provides strong sexual assault prevention and education programming, we recognize our programs could be improved if they were better coordinated and centralized under one roof,” Jane Tuttle, assistant vice provost for student affairs, said in the news release. “The new Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center will serve as that central unit. The result will be a better, more coherent sexual assault prevention and education effort that benefits the KU community.”

Here’s how the new center will be organized, according to KU.

Tuttle will oversee the center.

It will start with one position, a director. KU expects to open a search for that position within the next few days.

Two educator positions and an administrative assistant will be hired later. The first educator will focus on men’s issues and bystander empowerment and the second — expected to be hired in early 2016 — will focus on sexual violence and healthy relationships.

The new center also will recruit and train students to be peer educators, envisioned to “enhance” how the university community learns about prevention.

KU has not decided where the center’s physical offices will be, Monaco said. He said several options are being considered.

Forcible sex offenses reported at KU nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, according to KU’s most recent Clery report. University officials have attributed the spike to increased awareness, as the White House and colleges nationwide have made the issue of addressing sexual violence a priority in recent years.

According to KU, the creation of the new center is in direct response to one of 27 recommendations arrived on last spring by KU’s Sexual Assault Task Force.

At the time task force leaders called it the most important of all the recommendations, because a central office was needed to implement and oversee other recommendations, as well as existing campus efforts.

Task force members also said such an office should be standalone and neutral, not within a certain gender studies department, for example, or the office that investigates sexual misconduct.