Kansas University administrators say they want to ensure KU is a “national leader” in addressing sexual violence and hope a newly hired director will help do that.
The university on Wednesday announced it had chosen Jennifer Brockman as the first program director of KU’s newly created Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center, or SAPEC. She’ll start Jan. 20.
Brockman is executive director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program at the University of Iowa.
The Iowa program she leads — the only one of its kind in the country, Brockman said — has a staff of 22 university employees and a volunteer group of 50. Brockman said it supports not only the university community, but also provides services to residents of eight surrounding counties.
In the past year and a half, KU has had its share of outrage over sexual violence.
KU is on the list of universities the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating for their handling of sexual violence cases. The victim whose complaint opened that investigation went public with her story, including to national media outlets, and what some considered insufficient discipline of the perpetrator sparked protests at KU in fall 2014.
Brockman said that kind of attention on the school does not daunt her. Instead, she called it “energizing.”
“To have the opportunity to have the national spotlight put on sexual violence on campus and communities, to really have it get the attention it deserves, is amazing,” she said. “This is an incredible time in the field of sexual violence work.”
Brockman added that she looked forward to working on a campus with high student activism rates and an “engaged student body.”
Brockman said working at KU also is a homecoming of sorts for her. She is originally from Stewartsville, Mo., and has family in the Kansas City area.
Prompted by a recommendation from last year’s Sexual Assault Task Force and announced in the fall, SAPEC will serve as the central coordinating office for KU’s sexual assault prevention and education programming, according to KU. Its creation shifts education responsibilities away from other KU units including Public Safety, Student Affairs, Watkins Health Services and the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which investigates reports of sexual violence and other forms of discrimination on campus.
Brockman is the new center’s first employee. Next, KU will hire two educators and an administrative assistant.
“As universities around the country continue to address sexual assault and violence, we are seeking to ensure that KU is a national leader in finding new ways to address these issues,” Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, said in a university news release.
In the search for the SAPEC program director, KU identified three finalists, and two talked with various groups of stakeholders on campus, including students, as part of the hiring process, KU spokesman Andy Hyland said. He said the salary for the position is $72,000.
KU has said the overall budget for the four-person SAPEC is expected to be about $200,000.