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USF President's First Year Punctuated By Coronavirus, Accreditation - And More

man walking outside
University of South Florida
On July 1, 2020, Steven Currall made the first short walk as USF President from his new home in the Lifsey House on the Tampa campus to his office in the Patel Center. He speaks to Florida Matters about what happened during the year since.

On July 1, Steven Currall marked his first anniversary as president of the University of South Florida.

While he faced "expected" concerns like the consolidation of the accreditation of the three USF campuses under one umbrella, he also had to deal with crises like the coronavirus pandemic and racial equity concerns of faculty, staff, and students.
Currall speaks with WUSF's Mark Schreiner about those issues on this week's Florida Matters.

They also talked about recent allegations of sexual violence on campus. Below is an excerpt of that conversation.

President Currall, something that just really kind of broke within the last couple of weeks at USF is dozens and dozens of allegations on social media about sexual assault at USF, particularly involving the fraternity system on the Tampa campus. What has your response been to that?

We take these reports and accusations very, very seriously. And we're troubled by these reports. We have a very well-developed unit within the university that intakes these reports and then aims to resolve these issues and also investigate them. If crimes have been committed, that information goes straight to our police and then on to the law enforcement authorities. So we take this issue very, very seriously.

As you know, over the last several months, we've been working on a series of what we call Principles of Community. And those principles affirm our commitment to mutual respect, communication, free expression, and social justice. And so we are very committed to those.

And to the extent that there's any inappropriate behavior at our university among students, or between faculty and students, we are taking that very, very seriously and tackling those issues in a thoughtful way and using our existing structures to investigate these accusations.

We’re also as a result of the dialogue that we're having, we are reflecting on and reviewing our structures and processes and making sure that we're doing a very good job of promptly responding to these reports and accusations.

And so my team and I are working on a daily basis to ensure that we can investigate these reports and make sure that we have the kind of structures that enable us to be responsible stewards.

READ MORE: See Steven Currall's statement to the USF community about how the university is responding to sexual assault allegations

A number of these accusations are about former students, people who may be involved (who) are still on campus or more likely have graduated and moved on. Is it the kind of thing where unless law enforcement is involved, there's no way of following up on that? Or how is the university handling...past experiences, so to speak?

We have a record of all of these reports, going back a few years, to the extent that we can possibly do so within the constraints of law and government policy.

We're pursuing those reports and following up on those and so just because they've happened in the past does not mean that we've disengaged from those, we are still looking into those and to the extent that we can, we will pursue those reports and investigations and it's important for us to do so because we learn a lot about where we can improve the university, where we can deliver additional training to students and faculty and staff to ensure that we're stamping out these examples of sexual assault.

So we're learning a lot from the process and further strengthening our ability to be responsive to these kinds of concerns.

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Students can report sexual assault or violence to USF's Title IX Office, as well as to law enforcement.

Other potential sources of assistance:

USF Center for Victims Advocacy and Violence Prevention: 813-974-5756; Crime Victim Helpline (open 24/7): 813-974-5757

USF Counseling Center (Tampa): 813-974-2831

USF University Police (Tampa): 813-974-2628

USF St. Petersburg Wellness Center: 727-873-4422 (open 24/7)

USF St. Petersburg Student Outreach and Support office: 727-873-4278

USF St. Petersburg University Police: 727-873-4444

USF Sarasota-Manatee Counseling & Wellness Center: 941-487-4254; Victim Advocate (open 24/7): 941-504-8599

USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Police Department: 941-487-4210

Crisis Center of Tampa Bay: 211

CASA St. Pete: 727-828-1269

Suncoast Center Sexual Assault Services: 727-530-7273

Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017. In addition to serving as a producer, reporter, host and assistant news director, he serves as intern coordinator for WUSF News. 
Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.