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It's On Us: Sexual Assault Prevention Program

Dear members of the Vassar community,

As we begin this new school year, the college is continuing its deep commitment to the health and safety of all members in our community by joining the It’s On Us campaign.

It’s On Us is a growing national program for the prevention of sexual assault that relies on each member of a community taking responsibility to act when necessary. At Vassar we are asking everyone to contribute to creating an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported, whether it is in a dorm room, at a party, at an athletics or organizational event, or anywhere else on campus.  As students, faculty, administrators, and staff, it’s on us to make that happen, to take actions that help prevent sexual assault.

The national statistics on campus sexual assault are sobering – data suggest one in five women and one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted during their time at college. Vassar is joining thousands of schools from around the country to become part of the It’s On Us campaign to end this damaging trend. In coordination with the campaign, Vassar’s Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention (SAVP) program will host a series of programs throughout the academic year. Additionally, the SAVP program has trained 14 new Mentors In Violence Prevention program facilitators who will be available for ongoing bystander education.

In addition to supporting this national movement, we have refined Vassar’s policies to be in alignment with recent changes in law on the state level. In July, Governor Cuomo passed Article 129-B of the New York State Education Law, referred to as “Enough is Enough.” Since then, Vassar’s Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action (EOAA) has been diligently making sure that the college is meeting all state and federal expectations in ways that best address the needs of our campus. Although the college was fully compliant with the spirit of the new legislation, the following items have been adjusted to be fully consistent with the law and with other colleges and universities in New York:

  • We adopted the uniform definition of affirmative consent and incapacitation;
  • We provided provisions for additional alcohol and other drug amnesty for bystanders and/or reporting individuals;
  • The Students’ Bill of Rights has been streamlined and is inclusive of all students (attached);
  • We have provided for emergency access to the Title IX Coordinator or other investigator upon first disclosure of an incident;
  • There is a provision for assistance from appropriate institutional representatives in initiating legal proceedings in family court or civil court;
  • A transcript notation is now mandatory for students suspended or expelled for Clery reportable crimes;
  • We provide comprehensive orientation and ongoing education, including required violence prevention training, for all student athletes and student organization leaders;
  • We have committed to conducting a campus climate survey at least every other year;
  • We now report aggregate data and information about reports of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault to the New York State Education Department.


There are a couple of other updates I want to add:


Returning students may remember having participated in the “What Happens Here: Gender-based Violence” survey. The Offices of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action, Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention, and Health Education, in close collaboration with the Office of Institutional Research, have been analyzing and studying the data from that assessment over the summer and will present the findings from this survey to the community later this semester.  


Additionally, in an effort to increase transparency, the complete procedural guide for Title IX hearings is now published in the Student Handbook.


For more information about these items please refer to the College Regulations section of the Student Handbook. If you have specific questions contact Kelly Grab, Assistant Director of EOAA/Interim Title IX Coordinator at kegrab@vassar.edu.


For more information about prevention education and support services contact Charlotte Strauss Swanson, Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention Coordinator, atchstraussswanson@vassar.edu.

Again, I urge everyone to visit ItsOnUs.org to share in this commitment.

Thank you,

Catharine Hill