SUNY approves sexual assault prevention resolution

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged SUNY to pass a resolution outlining sexual assault prevention and response practices. (STATESMAN STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged SUNY to pass a resolution outlining sexual assault prevention and response practices. (STATESMAN STOCK PHOTO)

By Rebecca Anzel, Giselle Barkley and Hanaa’ Tameez

The State University of New York is taking steps to better combat sexual assault and violence across its 64 campuses. At Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s urging, the SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution on Friday, Oct. 2 to create a uniform set of prevention and response practices.

“I don’t need to suggest, and it would not be accurate for anyone to suggest, that this is a SUNY problem,” he said. “It is not. This is a societal problem. This is Harvard and Yale and Princeton, Albany and Buffalo and Oswego. It is not SUNY’s problem by origination. I would suggest it should be SUNY’s problem to solve and SUNY’s place to lead.”

The resolution requires all SUNY campuses to adopt an identical definition of consent; a policy to protect victims of a sexual abuse crime from being punished for a student code of conduct violation like underage alcohol consumption or drug use; and the Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, which would provide victims with his or her rights, a list of resources and steps for reporting the incident, according to the memorandum. The document also specifies SUNY will work to organize a training course for each campus’ police force and administrators to address handling sexual assault incidents as well as “a public campaign to increase awareness among students and parents.”

The resolution comes during the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) investigation into the way one of SUNY’s campuses, Stony Brook University, handles Title IX complaints. As part of the 1972 Education Act, Title IX is a federal clause prohibiting discrimination based on gender at any federally-funded educational institution. The investigation into SBU began on Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

This is not the first time OCR opened a case into SUNY’s Title IX compliance. An investigation in December 2010 into the 29 state-operated SUNY institutions—including Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Purchase and Stony Brook—was closed in September 2013 after OCR and SUNY reached an agreement that detailed 13 improvements the SUNY system was required to implement, according to a Department of Education (DOE) press release.

One of those improvements is a mandate that each SUNY institution designate a Title IX coordinator. At Stony Brook University, Marjolie Leonard holds that position.  According to Leonard, her role is not only to get involved with sexual assault cases, but also to oversee the university’s risk management program.

“[My role is] also to have a pulse on the campus community and see if there are any trends or any things we need to address,” Leonard said, “whether it’s more training, whether it’s looking at our policy and does our policy reflect our practice, and does our practice reflect the need of the campus population.”

It is unknown what Leonard and the Stony Brook administration’s role will be in implementing the different aspects of the newly passed resolution, what the impact of these changes will be on the university or the how long it will take these improvements to be enforced across its campuses.

According to Stony Brook’s Media Relations Officer Lauren Sheprow, the new resolution lines up with similar programs that already exist on campus.

“The statewide policy introduced by Governor Cuomo and the new SUNY [Board of Trustees] resolution are aligned with many initiatives that are already underway at Stony Brook,” she said in an email.  “[This includes] awareness, prevention and education programs (i.e., Red Watch Band, CPO lesson during the 101 courses, Rape Aggression Defense [RAD] Programs, crime prevention awareness sessions about sexual assault, etc.); providing several types of training for students and employees; administering a campus-wide climate survey to all students that is systematically linked to our prevention work; and having a comprehensive definition of consent in our Student Code of Conduct.”

Sheprow added Stony Brook is anticipating further guidance from SUNY on the action items listed in the resolution but will also “monitor mandates and guidance from federal and state agencies.”

This story was originally published in the Oct.14, 2014 issue of The Statesman.

Stony Brook will host NYS RISE storm research hub

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Stony Brook University will be home to the NYS RISE, which will analyze previous weather events to prepare for future ones. (MIKE PEDERSEN / THE STATESMAN)

Stony Brook University will serve as one of two home bases for the New York State Resilience Institute for Storms & Emergencies (NYS RISE), Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Friday, Nov. 1.

At his Conference on Emergency Preparedness in Albany, Cuomo revealed that the new facility will be a research hub for analysts, government officials and emergency first responders to analyze previous storms and collaborate on ideas to improve the way the state will address future extreme weather events.

“Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee taught us many lessons from the last three years,” Cuomo said in a press release. “But the biggest lesson of all was that we have much more to learn about today’s changing and unpredictable climate.

“We are gathering top academic leaders, policy makers, emergency experts and first responders from across the nation to develop strategies to meet one simple goal—and that is to better protect New York’s communities in natural disasters,” he continued.

However, according to the Associate Dean of Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, R. Lawrence Swanson, who will be co-directing the institute with SOMAS Dean Minghua Zhang, the project started soon after Superstorm Sandy, last February.

When the researchers at Stony Brook were ineligible to receive federal government funding for their work, they turned to the state for aid.

“Some of our contacts [suggested] we apply directly to the state because FEMA was not only giving money for restoration of homes and property but a certain proportion of that money was to go to research,” Swanson said.

But Stony Brook was not alone in their efforts. Along with SBU’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, the Resilience Institute will also be housed at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn, where Construction Engineering and Management Professor Fletcher H. (Bud) Griffis will head the institute on his end.

“I guess in somewhat of a parallel move, New York University also was doing similar things,” Swanson said. “It became apparent within the state that the two of us were embarking on independent paths and suggested that we merge efforts and put together a single proposal, which we did.”

Swanson said the program will mostly be internalized and will not bring in experts from around the nation. But, the university will mostly work alongside Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“Brookhaven is going to be leading the effort for the Stony Brook portion of the program,” Swanson said in a phone interview.  “And looking at some of the energy issues that arose during the storm and how to improve those.”

Some researchers will also allow students to participate in their work for NYS RISE. Swanson said SOMAS will be using both its graduate and PhD students, and some faculty members want to use their undergraduate students to work on their projects.

“Some of [the work] will be done in the field, other parts of it will be totally within the confines of the University here itself,” he said. “A lot of it will be getting information from local communities in order for us to better understand what they went through [and] trying to improve the situation for the next time.”

This article was originally published in the Nov.20, 2013 issue of The Statesman.

SUNY campuses approve governor’s economic initative

The bill requires universities to put any business revenue toward student financial aid. (MIKE PEDERSEN/THE STATESMAN)

The bill requires universities to put any business revenue toward student financial aid. (MIKE PEDERSEN/THE STATESMAN)

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s plans to jumpstart the state economy are centered around SUNY campuses. And the university system could not be more elated.

On June 19, Cuomo, along with Senate Majority Coalition co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver unveiled their agreement to the legislation titled, “START-UP NY,” which stands for “SUNY Tax-free Areas to Revitalize and Transform Upstate NY.”

The economic initiative is designed to bring new businesses to the areas surrounding SUNY and other university campuses in the state of New York by creating “the opportunity to operate completely tax-free – including no income tax for employees, no sales, property or business tax – while also partnering with the world-class higher education institutions in the SUNY system,” according to the governor’s website.

“Tax-Free NY will put together all the positives of New York, the history, the geography, the diversity, the educated workforce and combine all we have to offer with a tax-free environment,” Cuomo said in a press release.  “This proposal will make our state more competitive than ever before and supercharge our economic development efforts to rebuild Upstate New York.”

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Governor Cuomo praises Stony Brook in educational development

“In so many ways the challenges that the state faces are being addressed here at Stony Brook,” Cuomo said. (MIKE PEDERSEN / THE STATESMAN)

“In so many ways the challenges that the state faces are being addressed here at Stony Brook,” Cuomo said. (MIKE PEDERSEN / THE STATESMAN)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived at the Charles B. Wang Center on Thursday, Feb. 28, to speak to constituents about his proposed budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year as well as the topics covered in his State of the State address from January.

Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley introduced some of the issues Gov. Cuomo would later cover saying, “it is fate that the governor chose to visit Stony Brook to talk about this plan. Education is the engine in growing the economy and the SUNY system and our university play a major role in this state. We are educating and preparing our students to join the workforce.”

Governor Cuomo took the stage at 2 p.m. and called Stony Brook “such a great gem for the SUNY system.”

“In so many ways the challenges that the state faces are being addressed here at Stony Brook,” Cuomo said.

He then outlined his plans for the state in a presentation titled “New York Rising,” including education reforms, which focused on aiding students of all ages around the state.  “We are not educating all of our children to the fullest,” he said. “Some are getting a world-class and some children are being left behind and that’s the truth. And we’re better than that.”

Cuomo proposed keeping primary and secondary school students in the classroom longer by either extending school days or school years, in order to better prepare New York children to globally compete for jobs. “I understand that this change is hard, and I understand that this is a big one but I think we should move in this direction. I’ll leave it to the local school districts as to how they want to do it.”

He also explained the idea of creating a “tech-transfer challenge.” “Stony Brook has some very high examples in this regard [to the tech transfer]. When you look at the economies that are doing well in this country, or around the world for that matter, the basic common denominators are these new high tech ideas that are basically coming out of academic institutions of higher learning,” he said.

“It’s the next cell phone, the next chip, it’s the next circuit board, the next brilliant idea that comes out of an academic institution that then becomes commercialized. They call that the tech-transfer, when you transfer the technology to the commercial sphere.”

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