Update on UNH's Interpersonal and Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Efforts

December 2, 2021

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students—

We are writing to provide updates on the university’s ongoing interpersonal and sexual violence prevention and response efforts; our last update can be found here . Student success and well-being is our top strategic priority and part of that priority is to do everything we can as a community to combat interpersonal and sexual violence and to make UNH safe for everyone. We recognize that these topics can be very difficult for some and we want to remind you that there are many UNH resources available whenever students, faculty and staff feel unsafe or need support (please see bottom of this email for a list of those resources).

We want to begin by addressing a recent Union Leader editorial that included disturbing and violent language that we strongly condemn. It goes against everything we are working on to build a community where all are respected and valued. Rather than suppressing our students’ activism and speech, as the editorial recommends, we intend to double down on our commitment to encouraging civil discourse. Together we have reached out to the leaders of the newly formed Sexual Violence Action Committee (SVAC) and look forward to meeting with them soon. We want to continue to work together to enhance safety and prevent interpersonal and sexual violence on our campuses. We encourage you to listen to an interview that aired yesterday on NHPR which provides additional information about our efforts and includes an interview with one of the student leaders of the newly formed SVAC.

Interpersonal and sexual violence is a significant concern across our country, and no city, town or university is exempt. Since the student protests several weeks ago, senior members of the administration have had several productive conversations with students, faculty and staff across campus and heard students' concerns about our response and prevention efforts and not feeling safe. We are in the process of finalizing specific, tangible action items that we will share with the UNH community shortly, along with more opportunities for the community to respond, ask questions and provide feedback. A few areas we will address:

  • Implement a comprehensive violence prevention plan to enhance campus safety
  • Provide more education to community members about reporting options and resources. This will include students, faculty and staff.
  • Make policies and processes more straightforward to understand and navigate

Part of our policy review has included looking at the circumstances around a former faculty member (Prof. Howard) and issues related to his hiring in 2015 and subsequent events reported to the Title IX office. We have completed an internal review. Based on this initial review, our policies at the time were followed. This does not, however, release us from the responsibility of continuing to do better. We have created and improved several processes since 2015 and have initiated an external review to encompass the hiring process as well as Title IX and other reporting processes. We expect the external review to be completed by Feb. 1, 2022. We are also working with faculty, staff, students and our colleagues in the Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) to make recommendations on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) and sexual violence prevention and response in research, with a specific focus on field work safety.
 
Here is the list of resources available to students, faculty and staff who feel unsafe or need support:

At this time of year, with the press of the end of the semester and the holidays upon us, it is more important than ever that we come together as a community.  We are thankful for the many groups that have come together around this topic as we strive to make UNH a leader in student success and well-being.

Regards,

James W. Dean Jr.
President

Nadine Petty
Associate Vice President for Community, Equity and Diversity