Dr. Toro Discusses Campus Safety Reengineering With SGA

Kristina Vakhman, News Editor

Central Connecticut is continuing to reevaluate and revamp its approaches to ensuring campus welfare following the discovered sexual misconduct of two theater professors who are now in the process of being dismissed. At its meeting last Wednesday, President Dr. Zulma Toro turned to the Student Government Association for student feedback on the university’s “action plan.”

“The action plan includes the seven most important recommendations in the task force report and includes other recommendations that are not part of those seven,” Dr. Toro said.

Dr. Toro highlighted the reengineering of the Office of Diversity and Equity, the Human Resources Department and the Office of the Ombudsperson, explaining that it would be done by a third party with her direct oversight by Dec. 2019.

The proposed structures would be presented to the campus community, including students, for feedback.

A lack of student involvement was an issue that Senator James Angelopoulos brought up, telling Dr. Toro that CCSU should adopt a model that certain public school systems have where students actively participate in the hiring of new faculty in the form of a committee.

“We as a Senate believe that it would be proper to have a committee that oversees faculty just so we can curb [inappropriate behaviors] and say, ‘These are the ones that aren’t clicking with the students,'” Angelopoulos said.

Dr. Toro responded that she would “continue [the] practice” of students having representation in search committees. Additionally, a Campus Climate Survey, which she said should be ready by this June, would allow students, as well as faculty and staff, to provide direct comments on their opinions of campus safety.

Moreover, Dr. Toro said that a “software” or “platform” was being developed “to report, monitor and track complaints [on sexual misconduct, bullying and other behaviors] in…a centralized place and…follow up on the progress toward addressing those complaints or investigating those complaints.” It would also allow the tracking of trends in an individual’s behaviors and to prevent lost information.

A campus web page with information on the progress of action items is also scheduled to go up mid-March.

On when the Office of Diversity and Equity would get a new director, the question posed by Vice President Dante Solano, Dr. Toro said that it is a “complex situation” because the position has become “less attractive” the “work the person has to do would be monumental.”

“As soon as possible,” she concluded, saying that she is currently interviewing a candidate. “I am hopeful this person I am talking to will be willing to accept the position.”

Angelopoulos added the concern of dysfunctional Blue Lights, the emergency phones around campus, citing how some in particularly isolated locations, like the campus’ perimeter and near the Kaiser Lot construction, are out-of-order. Treasurer Kristina DeVivo corroborated that grievance, saying that she and other students she’s spoken with, especially residents, do not feel safe walking at night.

“How we get to Hilltop Cafe is on the side of the road with no Blue Light or lighting at night,” DeVivo, who lives in Mid-Campus Hall, said. “No one even feels safe to go. It just has a bunch of stress relief when you’re walking and you’re like, ‘Well, I have [the Blue Lights].'”

Dr. Toro said that she is “committed to addressing this problem.” As another precaution, she stated that “100 percent of faculty and staff [will] go through Title IX training, including adjunct faculty.”

“We are determined to train everyone,” she affirmed while acknowledging the difficulty on doing so.

When Senator Armando Osario asked if LGBTQ+ protections would be included in the training, Dr. Toro said that the LGBT Center and the LGBT advisory board are doing information-gathering to include in the training plan as needed.

“The purpose of the implementation of those recommendations is to make the campus climate at Central one that is welcome, is safe and one that really respects the differences of every individual that is part of our family,” Toro stated.