SUNY Partners with U.S. Navy to Convene Day-long Discussion on Ways to Combat Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

September 5, 2019

Protections are Critical to Ensuring the Safety of All Students in Both Organizations

New York City – The State University of New York today announced that it is partnering with the U.S. Department of the Navy to convene a "Regional Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment: Achieving Cultural Change Through Data and an Evaluation Mindset." The discussion reflects a shared commitment to putting an end to sexual assault and sexual harassment, and provides an opportunity to share best practices.

The event is co-hosted by SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. It features a leadership forum on the importance of engaged leaders in confronting the issue and another forum on going beyond legal obligations. In addition, the event includes several breakout sessions on topics such as the use of data, strategies for prevention and postvention, and the impact of climate on sexual assault.

The day-long discussion is being held today at the New York Marriott East Side and the SUNY Global Center. In addition to Chancellor Johnson and Secretary Spencer, speakers include Dr. Elise Van Winkle, director of the Office of Force Resiliency; Dr. Tod Laursen, SUNY provost and senior vice chancellor; and Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel for the American Council on Education.

"Protecting the integrity, dignity, and wellbeing of the people in our organizations is a moral imperative and a safety issue," said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. "I am pleased to be working with Secretary Spencer on our shared commitment to safeguarding the people we lead, teach, and serve. Since the passage of New York State’s landmark Enough is Enough legislation in 2015, SUNY has aggressively advanced a series of successful programs and initiatives that we look forward to sharing with our colleagues in the Navy."

"Sexual assault and sexual harassment endanger our people and our nation," said Secretary of the Navy Spencer. "These destructive behaviors degrade our readiness, harm our communities, and violate our core values. We all have the responsibility, and the capability, to confront this behavior and win this fight. We must relentlessly promote a healthy work environment, speaking up when we see unprofessional behavior, regardless of rank or position. We are one team, committed to the same ideals. We can, and must, end the threat of sexual assault and sexual harassment with the Navy and the Marine Corps team."

The regional discussion at SUNY Global continues the conversation that began last April at the first-ever "National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America’s Colleges, Universities, and Service Academies," which was co-hosted by the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force at the U.S. Naval Academy. The event explored ways to combat sexual assault and harassment in the nation’s colleges, universities, and service academies.

Participants attending the regional event will examine ways to jointly increase and improve the collection of prevalence and reporting data around sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Department of Navy is seeking to include basic evaluation standards in any new prevention programs before they are implemented, in order to ensure oversight, proper evaluation design, and clear measures of program effectiveness.

The partnership with the U.S. Navy is an opportunity for SUNY to share its resources, expertise, and strategies for managing the various challenges around issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Among those resources is SPARC, the Sexual and Interpersonal Violence Prevention And Response Course.

SPARC is designed to be part of first-year orientation for colleges students and can be taught throughout the academic year. The course helps students understand complex issues such as affirmative consent, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct. It also trains them on how to be active bystanders and advocates for change on their campuses. In addition, SPARC provides information on local resources, should students become victims of violence.

SPARC recently added a new segment called Training in Reducing Alcohol Consumption (TRAC), to engage and educate students on responsible use of alcohol, and the health risks and physiological impacts of overconsumption. TRAC will train students on how to use alcohol responsibly, and what to do when a friend has consumed too much. Both courses are available for download, and free to colleges all over the world. Since its launch in April 2017, SPARC has registered more than 250 colleges in the U.S. and overseas.

SUNY also offers victims and survivors of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence a website called SAVR, Sexual Assault and Violence Response. The site links visitors to local resources in their communities.

In addition, SUNY leads a project with the New York State Office of Victim Services called SUNY’s Got Your Back, which involves assembling personal care items in comfort kits. The kits are distributed to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence at hospitals, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis centers. The project also serves to build awareness of domestic and sexual violence, while destigmatizing victims of abuse.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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