Response Is Not Prevention: Management Insights for Reducing Campus Sexual Assault


Published: 29Mar2018

Authors: Brian Rubineau, Nazampal Jaswal 

Publication: Education Law Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2017


Universities use formal policies not only to respond to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault, but also to prevent future incidents. This article integrates an analysis of the legal evolution of campus policies regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault in the U.S. and Canada with a targeted review of relevant topics within the management and organizations literature. Based on this synthesis of research examining organizational diversity initiatives, organizational culture, culture change, and safety culture, we challenge the perspective that university policies are an appropriate tool for sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention. Achieving both goals — responsiveness and prevention — requires distinct approaches. Towards this end, we propose a hybrid strategy that requires the separation of policies designed to respond to incidents ex post, from approaches seeking to prevent further incidents ex ante. Successful prevention requires culture change, and culture change requires a broader range of integrated efforts — organized around an encompassing goal such as mutual respect — than is practical to codify within sexual harassment or sexual assault policies.