UConn president outlines changes to better respond to sexual harassment, violence

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — The president of the University of Connecticut on Thursday outlined for the campus community several new initiatives designed to better prevent and respond to sexual violence or harassment at the school.

Susan Herbst, in an email to faculty, staff and students, announced the formation of a Title IX investigative team that will focus exclusively on student complaints of harassment or sexual assault. The unit includes two full-time investigators who were hired during the summer.

UConn in July agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit by five women who alleged the school did not take seriously their claims of sexual assaults on campus.

Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the email is not part of that litigation, but meant to make sure members of the UConn community, especially those new to the campus, are aware of available resources.

Elizabeth Conklin, the school's Title IX coordinator, said the investigative team has been running since Aug. 1.

"We have definitely seen an increase in reporting this fall, and that's a good thing," Conklin said.

She said the investigative team will work closely with a special victims unit formed in February by the UConn police department, which also is dedicated to sexual violence cases.

Herbst also introduced the school's a new dean of students and an assistant dean for victim support services, who starts her job on Friday. She said the school also has added other counseling and mental health staff.

Other previously announced initiatives outlined in the letter include the formation of a community resource team, charged with ensuring a coordinated response to complaints, and a bystander intervention program.

As part of that, she said the school this week is joining the national "It's on Us" campaign, which is aimed at reducing sexual violence through awareness and bystander intervention.

"It is through these efforts that UConn will continue to develop a culture of safety and respect," Herbst wrote. "This is, for all of us, the highest priority for our campus."

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