Dan Woods sat down with Southeast President Carlos Vargas on Tuesday, October 18 for their monthly conversation about issues and events impacting the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.
Woods began by asking the president about two reports of sexual assault on the campus in 2016 and the the university handles those situations.
Vargas: Well, let me start by saying that I am personally, terribly troubled by those assaults and not only I alone but everybody at the university on the campus, the community is very troubled by that. So, what we have done over the years and we currently have is in place, a number of programs.
First of all, I think it is important to say that if anybody is aware of any kind of sexual assault that they should communicate it to somebody. Now, we have offices: the Department of Public Safety, of course, is one of them; the Campus Violence Prevention Program is another one; Counseling and Disability Services is another one; the Dean of Students Office and also the Office of Student Conduct. So, any of those offices is an office where somebody can report sexual assault. There is no time limit for reporting sexual assault so there's nothing that anybody has to worry about with anything related to statue of limitations or anything like that.
Our highest priority, of course, is the well-being of the students on campus and of course the community in general. Our programs and resources provide 24-hour support, so that's important for anybody to know. And we do have a website at the university, we have the webpages that talk about sexual assault and give advice and recommendations to anybody who may have been the subject of a sexual assault or anybody who knows about a sexual assault so they can report it.
We're very concerned...clearly one of the things that I would like to remind everybody -- the students and everybody else is that they really should not engage in activities that may in some way lead to that kind of situation. In other words, nobody should be placing himself or herself in a position where a sexual assault can happen. I know that sometimes it is impossible to know, that is clear, there is no doubt about that. But on the other hand, if there is a possibility to avoid the situation that would lead to that I think it is important to do so.
Woods: We also talked about Southeast becoming a tobacco-free campus. At this point opinions are being collected from different constituencies on campus.
Vargas: What we have done is asked, through the administrative council, we have asked everybody who is represented in that body to go back to their constituencies and ask for input and come back to us and tell us what their views are and what their feelings are. We just had this very last meeting in which we received feedback from different groups. This feedback was verbal at this point. And so I am in the process of evaluating that and looking at what else we need to do before a decision can be made as to what direction to take with that.