National Discussion 2023: Leaders’ Role in Developing Healthy Climates and Prevention

By Antwaun ParrishNovember 6, 2023

The final panel of the day-long 2023 National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America’s Colleges, Universities and Service Academies focused on ‘Leaders’ Role in Developing Healthy Climates and Prevention.

ND23 was held in person and virtually at the United States Military Academy, October 24.

This year’s event brought together approximately 300 people including experts and leaders at public, private and government-run educational institutions to better understand and address the challenges of eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment on college and university campuses across the nation. This collaborative forum is intended to develop partnerships, share best practices in prevention and leverage research to create safe and healthy learning environments free of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

This panel consisted of Brig. Gen. (R) Cindy Jebb, Ramapo College President, Dr. Kevin Kruger, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators President, Tania Tetlow, Fordham University President and Joseph Storch, Grand River Solutions, Senior Director of Compliance & Innovation Solutions.

The panel moderator opened the discussion asking the panelists for some of their biggest ‘aha’ moments they’ve had during the discussion.

Jebb stated that it’s important to set the conditions for community members to get to know one another, identify value and diversity.

“This is how you build trust,” said Jebb.

Storch mentioned that it’s easy to get people to show up for the revealing of a [sexual assault prevention] campaign or to participate in events. However, he feels that it doesn’t properly lead to desired results.

“That’s not enough,” said Storch. The hard work is being done day in and day out and getting real support behind the mission.”

According to Kruger, mental health is a barrier to a students’ success. He went on to state that the more support students have the better they perform throughout their academic career.

“A healthy environment contributes to the overall success of the student,” said Kruger. “It makes a difference if university leadership speaks out about this subject.”

When asked about raising the emotional intelligence of an organization, Jebb replied that leaders must talk mission-centric.

“Leaders need to show vulnerability and be someone who students and members of your organization wants to look up too.”

Jebb emphasized that being relatable is the most efficient way to get through to those who may need you during a tough time.

During the final comments, Tetlow provided insight into how serious the work and conversations around prevention must be to be effective.

“As leaders this work is painful and hard and there are no clear answers, but it’s critical, and we must step up to the plate,” said Tetlow. “If any other violence was happening on campus we would be up in arms, and we need to be up in arms about this (prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment).”

The Army is committed to ensuring the prevention of harmful behaviors and has recently made improvements to the SHARP program. Having these discussions informs those modifications and reinforces to our students/cadets that Army leaders at all echelons are charged to establish a culture of dignity and respect that does not tolerate behaviors and attitudes that lead to sexual misconduct.

“Everybody has a role to play and a shared responsibility to have prevention integrated into the DNA of the organization,” said Jebb.