NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s coalition to end sexual assault reviewed and renewed its memorandum of understanding with several local agencies Friday, meeting required mandates in awareness, prevention, referring and reporting sexual misconduct. NSU has an agreement with parish law enforcement, healthcare providers and advocacy groups that delineates procedures for reporting, investigating and adjudicating cases quickly and fairly.
“This is a proactive collaboration that is important not just for Northwestern but for the community as a whole,” said NSU’s Acting President Dr. Chris Maggio during a breakfast sponsored by Campus Living Villages, the company that manages NSU’s residential facilities.
NSU’s Dean of Students and Title XI Coordinator Frances Conine, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Lori LeBlanc and an NSU student advocacy group, Demons Support Demons, developed the agreement three years ago in cooperation with NSU Police, the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Department, Natchitoches Police Department, Natchitoches Parish District Attorney’s Office, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center and Natchitoches Coroner’s Office. NSU also works closely with Project Celebration and STAR sexual assault advocates.
“This brings back into focus the reason for the coalition: to end sexual assault,” Conine said. In compliance with federal mandates, NSU offers an annual climate survey and developed the memorandum of understanding with local stakeholders. The goal is to educate students by raising awareness of sexual assault and its prevention.
“Awareness, education and prevention programs at NSU have been very strong,” LeBlanc said. “We have created pathways for students to report sexual assault and the work we do is confidential.”
Students say the initiatives are making a difference.
“I can see such a change,” said Caleb Howell, vice president of Demons Support Demons which works in tandem with It’s On Us, a national movement to end campus sexual violence. The group has about 30 active members and more than 200 who subscribe to their email list. The group is planning their biannual Week of Action March 20-24. “It’s rejuvenating to see new faces involved and people working to raise awareness on campus.”
“Our goal is to protect and serve,” said University Police Chief Jon Caliste. “The best way we can do that is when we have engagement in the community. That goal is forming right before my eyes when we have student groups, faculty, staff, law enforcement and healthcare providers all come together to say ‘We’ve had enough.’”