SCOPE Thought Piece, Question #7: Would you recommend a centralized prevention office or function for schools and college campuses? If so, what would an ideal centralized prevention function look like in your view?

Brett A. Sokolow, Esq.

I believe, and I hope our campus leaders come to understand, that centralized planning of prevention is an idea whose time has come.  Consider now all the different places on your campus from which prevention originates, just on the topic of sexual assault, as an example.  These areas may include the women’s center, the survivor support group, the peer educators, residential life, orientation, athletics, health educators, faculty members, etc.  Prevention is coming on many campuses from twenty different, uncoordinated sources whose purposes may align or cross.

We also tend to react to a crisis, emphasizing programming after an assault or series of campus incidents, rather than acknowledging that there will continue to be a series of campus incidents every semester, and that we need to be planning and offering a comprehensive curriculum for our students every semester. We are all programming, but coordination and centralized process development and planning are too rare.

Crossing purposes with other campus efforts weakens prevention’s potency.  By failing to align with the nineteen others who are doing prevention programming, we may not be able to maximize prevention’s efficacy.  But, by coordinating message, timing, dosage, audience, the developmental progression of the concepts, assuring mutually reinforcing concepts and cross-pollinating effective prevention paradigms, we can create a tipping point of transformation.

To create a centralized programming office or committee, include representatives from all campus departments that have prevention programming responsibilities and/or activities, so that centralized coordination becomes possible. We need to recognize that student activities personnel and athletics may not be topic specialists in many of the program areas they are called on to address. They received a call from a speaker, or work with an agency, or saw a presenter at a conference and want to invite him or her to campus.  Okay, but does this fit in with the overall strategy?  We need to make sure it does.

Maybe there are faculty and student representatives who should be at the table, including student government or campus programming board members, who would be helpful. The health educator, alcohol educator, sexual assault educator and other key stakeholders should be involved in the planning process. It may help to require that all programming efforts that are not centralized be pre-approved by the committee, so that the committee has a mechanism for keeping the master calendar accurate and staying on message with the prevention philosophy and strategy. It may also be helpful to centralize programmatic funding within this committee (or at least approval for programmatic expenditures related to its purview), to build a prevention war-chest and to help avoid stray programs that may detract from or diminish the efficacy of the strategy.

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