To the Editor:
I write to clarify any confusion or concern my brief remarks about sexual assault in the March 12 Foghorn interview may have caused members of the campus community. My full commitment to the safety and well-being of all students and employees, women and men, especially in matters of sexual violence and sexual harassment, may not have been communicated effectively, and for that I am sorry.
For the record, I believe that sexual violence is a heinous crime and a grievous sin. Much worse than other crimes, it is an affront to the innate dignity of victims who are women created in the image and likeness of God.
Many university faculty and staff have done much good and important work here over the years. This includes the faculty in the Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) program, Peter Novak and the professionals in Student Life who created the Think About It program, Public Safety officers and many others. We are also blessed with women in leadership positions throughout the university who have helped us to craft a culture that lifts up the status of women in a spirit of inclusive excellence.
While we at USF have been working for years to create a better environment of respect and safety, we still have much to do and must redouble our efforts. This includes educating all our students and employees and enlisting them in the prevention of incidents of sexual violence. In addition, while there has been good progress in our response to crimes on and off campus, here too there is much work still to be done. Our goal is zero incidents of sexual violence toward women at USF.
As much good as we can do here at USF, it is a tragic fact that women who are not our students also suffer greatly from the collapse of safe space in conflict zones, from human trafficking and from other forms of sexual violence. So, as a university, we also have an obligation to engage in learned advocacy for the improvement of the status of women everywhere it is threatened.
Be assured of my continued strong advocacy and full commitment in support of this essential work. I stand with colleagues and students who are likewise dedicated to this common mission.
Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald