College explores new faculty training for sexual assault

Following criticism of the faculty and staff sexual assault and harassment training module, the faculty and staff training subcommittee of the College of William and Mary Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault and Harassment recommended creating a more goal-oriented, College-specific training, as well as revisiting several elements of the training process.

According to Senior Administrative Assistant in the Office of the President Carla Costello, the subcommittee’s charge from President Taylor Reveley was to measure the success of the current training system, educate the campus community about sexual assault and harassment, and recommend methods for more effective prevention and education.

“Faculty and staff members at William & Mary are often the most trusted advisers for our students,” Reveley wrote in a January 2015 email to faculty. “Thus, it is essential that each of us be trained to support those W&M students who confront sexual violence or harassment, as well as any other sort of harassment. We also need to be aware of other ways in which we can help ensure that W&M remains a supportive, harassment-free environment for faculty and staff.”

Subcommittee members included Costello, subcommittee chair and Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover, Human Resources Director of Training and Development Babs Bengston, associate government professor and president of the Faculty Assembly David Dessler, assistant biology professor Helen Murphy, associate English and women’s studies professor Jennifer Putzi and Radha Yerramilli ’16.

As the only student on the committee, Yerramilli said she was able to tailor the discussion to the needs of students.

“One of the most wonderful things about the W&M community is the relationship students have with their professors,” she said in an email. “My role on the subcommittee was to facilitate conversation so that we created procedures and recommendations that give professors the resources to support their students in every way possible.”

After several months of discussion, the subcommittee provided 13 recommendations.

One recommendation suggested revising the faculty and staff training module in order to make it more specific to the College. According to the report, feedback suggested that the module did not meet expectations, as it was deemed too easy, superficial and cartoonish.

“Because the training was provided by Workplace Answers, there was some concern that it was not as specific to W&M as it could have been,” Costello said in an email. “There were specific places where we could insert specific W&M information, note who our Title IX Coordinator is, and indicate where students can receive help. But, we were limited in how W&M specific we could be with this module.”

The module, which was used through June 2015, was an interactive, online training experience that discussed workplace discrimination and all forms of harassment. Topics included faculty and staff responsibilities, campus security reports and confidentiality.

Training also highlighted the College’s Sexual Harassment Policy, which has information on reporting procedures and employees’ obligation to report sexual harassment complaints. At the conclusion of training, faculty and staff took a “Mastery Test” to gauge their understanding of the material.

“Because faculty and staff are often the most trusted advisors for our students, it is essential that they be trained on ways to support student[s] who confront sexual violence or harassment,” Glover said in an email.

The subcommittee recommended dividing future training into two sections: education/training and campus and community resources. While the specifics are still being decided, Costello said a coordinating committee will work with the College’s Title IX coordinator, Kiersten Boyce, to make further training decisions.

One option is to use a new online training system released by EverFi, the company that produces the AlcoholEdu and Haven modules used by incoming students for orientation training.

In addition to revising mandatory faculty and staff training, the subcommittee recommended offering more than 20 hours of advanced training for faculty interested in learning more about protocol, processes and adjudication.

Murphy said there were two guiding thoughts behind the extra training. First, there are some faculty members who would like to learn more information regarding sexual discrimination, assault and harassment in order to be more prepared if they are ever approached by a community member who has experienced a violation.

Additionally, the subcommittee found there were faculty members who reported numerous students confiding in them regarding instances of sexual assault or harassment, and these faculty members struggled with their duty to report the incidents. To aid these individuals, the subcommittee suggested considering an intensive training program that would allow faculty to be designated as a confidential resource.

“The first type of training could be similar to the Safe Zone format, in which faculty participate in a workshop tailored to this topic,” Murphy said in an email. “The second form of training would need to be ongoing and include the latest research surrounding these issues.”

Remaining recommendations touched on a variety of topics such as clarifying confidentiality in the context of faculty and staff and student relationships, providing additional training to faculty who will lead study abroad trips, and conducting mandatory campus-wide training every two years.

“Overall, the subcommittee sought to support [faculty]/staff in their relationships with each other and students,” Yerramilli said in an email. “We recommend greater access to trainings in a variety of different ways.”

Since the release of the task force report in June, the administration has implemented three of the recommendations: oversight of faculty and staff training has been shifted to the Office of Compliance and Equity; the new sexual violence website, including a tab for information for faculty and staff, has been launched; and campus-wide posters detailing resources have been posted.


  1. W&M is an incredible school with a great reputation. Its good to see a school being proactive in this area. We’ve been studying this topic for some time and have seen a big increase in interest for faculty and staff sexual harassment training at top schools:

    I also think its good for students to get this training early. It only helps them as they prepare for the workforce and all the changes happening in workplaces throughout the country.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here