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Hudson Valley News

Ulster County Adds Crisis Counselor For College Campuses

Ulster County is taking a step to address sexual assault on college campuses with funding under New York’s “Enough is Enough” policy. The funding is being used for a crisis counselor who will work on two campuses.

Ulster County is using more than $140,000 over two years from a state “Enough is Enough” grant to fund the position of an independent crisis counselor. The counselor will be within the Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Program and serve two college campuses — the State University of New York at New Paltz and SUNY Ulster. Here’s Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

“One of the key reasons for doing this in the first place is to ensure real independence from the institution,” says Hein.  “Now we’re fortunate here to have two institutions who understand and embrace the importance of this issue but the goal is to have independence here and make sure that students have an easy and accessible way of being able to report and know that their issues are being taken extremely seriously.”

The counselor is a certified rape crisis counselor, liaison to law enforcement agencies and educator who will provide training to both students and administrators at orientation and throughout the year. Cynthia Craft has been hired for the position. She spent 13 years as a crime victims advocate and educator with the county’s Crime Victims Assistance Program and the last two years as supervising probation officer. Craft will split her time between the two campuses.

“For instance, before, if it was the Crime Victims Program responding, one of the counselors would have to be available, they may be in another court with somebody else dealing with the community at large, whereas my specific role is going to be right there focusing specifically on this vulnerable population,” says Craft.

Hein says there have been seven reports of sexual assault at SUNY New Paltz and none at SUNY Ulster, whose main campus is in Stone Ridge. SUNY New Paltz President Dr. Donald Christian says bringing on an independent counselor will add to the college’s existing program to combat sexual assault.

“We have a remarkable Title IX coordinator and a team that work together in programming, education, bystander intervention, being sure that student leaders are aware of Title IX federal, SUNY, state regulation and guidelines, resources available to them, paths to follow to report a campus sexual assault,” Christian says.  “And we’re sure that this new opportunity will become part of that programming.”

SUNY Ulster President Dr. Alan Roberts says the new effort is an opportunity to strengthen what is already in place.

“We feel that there isn’t one situation that could ever be acceptable,” Roberts says. “We are making every move to follow the theme that ‘enough is enough.’ We will never allow anything other than the utmost integrity, support for our students.”

Roberts says the new position takes existing counseling and outreach to the next level. Frederic Mayo is acting executive director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ community center in Kingston.

“I know those campuses are fostering, encouraging and enabling lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning and gender fluid individuals to be themselves, and I know that they will feel safe to report when they’ve been abused, mistreated or violated in some significant way,” Mayo says. “And that’s just as important as it is for straight people, both sides of the coins. We all need this kind of professional support. We all need this kind of person to go to.”

Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum says the new position will be helpful.

“These types of incidents, they’re underreported, which means they’re under-investigated and they’re under-prosecuted,” Van Blarcum says. “So to have somebody now on the front lines that’s going to educate people on campus and get them to come forward and then the rest of us can do our job after that so it’s a great step forward for Ulster County.”

In July 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed “Enough is Enough” legislation to combat sexual assault on college campuses. The bill required all colleges to adopt a set of procedures and guidelines, including a uniform definition of affirmative consent, a statewide amnesty policy, and expanded access to law enforcement.   

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