As part of the Michigan Agenda for Women, President James J. Duderstadt recently invited a number of individuals to a roundtable discussion about the most effective ways for the University to address the problem of violence against women on campus.
Fifteen faculty and staff members from across the University who have particular expertise in this area agreed that violence against women is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
The group brainstormed a variety of possible approaches in response to the presidents challenge to make the Uni-versity a national leader in reducing violence against women.
Maureen A. Hartford, vice president for student affairs, stated that safety and violence are primary concerns identified by students.
Topics discussed included dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment and domestic violence. Representatives from both Family Housing and the residence halls noted the need for programs to address domestic and dating violence.
While members of the group acknowledged the reality that women are most at risk from people they know, concern also was expressed about the safety of students and employees who use campus facilities late at night. One participant noted the irony of women being raped by friends or co-workers who had volunteered to escort them.
Faculty members described the need for curricular development, especially in professional education.
A single lecture during their third year may be the only introduction of this prevalent problem that medical students receive during their four years of training, noted Elizabeth Shadigian, clinical assistant professor of medicine.
Law School Associate Dean for Student Affairs Susan M. Eklund commented that many other educational programs are similarly deficient in addressing issues of violence against women. We need to find curricular opportunities throughout students education to create an ongoing series of discussions about this issue.
Violence against women affects faculty and staff, as well as students. The costs the University incurs because of violencein medical bills, absenteeism and decreased productivitywere cited by Jackie McClain, executive director of human resources/affirmative action, who reminded the group that violence in the workplace is a serious concern for some U-M employees.
Daniel G. Saunders, associate professor of social work, cautioned that increased education and visibility about this issue would likely result in increased reporting of incidents, although the actual number of incidents might not have changed, and may even have decreased.
Roundtable participants urged Duderstadt to establish a campuswide task force charged with developing an action plan for reducing violence against women. The president indicated that he plans to proceed with the creation of such a group.