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National campus safety expert holds educational workshops at MIT

Risk management speaker talks with students, staff and alumni.
Risk management, hazing prevention and campus safety expert Kim Novak encourages students to create a 'community of care; during her recent visit to MIT.
Risk management, hazing prevention and campus safety expert Kim Novak encourages students to create a 'community of care; during her recent visit to MIT.
Photo: Marlena Martinez Love

This fall, MIT’s Office of Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups (FSILGs) welcomed Kim Novak, a nationally recognized expert in student-focused risk management, hazing prevention and campus safety. During her visit, Novak met with students, staff and alumni to share her extensive experience in large-scale event planning and reducing and managing risk on campus.

Novak’s engagements during the last week in October included a keynote address on creating a caring community, an alcohol skills training session, an interactive discussion on risk management, and a dynamic program on bystander intervention. She also gave a special presentation on hazing and NCAA regulations to staff and student athletes in the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER).

Novak particularly directed her advice toward students living in FSILGs, in which MIT administrators have long encouraged frank conversations on student safety.

“Since I arrived on MIT’s campus in January, there have been many discussions in the areas of risk management, student conduct and hazing prevention,” says Cat Sohor, assistant director for FSILGs. “Kim gave us a lot of great advice. We were able to speak openly and honestly about how we can make our campus safer.”

Novak commended the MIT community for its ongoing risk-management conversations, which ultimately strengthened the effectiveness of her workshops.

“MIT students were all truly interested in identifying ways to enhance the safety of their chapter events,” Novak says. “I was impressed by how open they were in their conversations and how invested they were in building the strength and success of their community.”

Novak’s presentations closely aligned with MIT’s wide range of risk-management programs. On-campus programs include PartySafe, a social host training session that promotes safe social events on campus, and the Chapter Alumni Risk Management Advisors (CARMA) program, in which alumni provide undergraduates with a wide range of resources including academic support, event planning resources, and effective strategies for addressing risk.

Bob Ferrara ’67, Division of Student Life senior director of strategic planning, communications and alumni relations, founded CARMA in 2004 and says that Novak’s visit reinforces the program’s efforts.

“Having someone of this caliber speak to the community supports our innovative risk-management programs and brings a national perspective to student health and safety,” Ferrara says.

Senior Stephen Hendel, president of MIT’s Chi Phi fraternity and judicial committee chair of MIT’s Interfraternal Council, echoed Ferrara’s appreciation. Hendel met with Novak in a small group to discuss some of the issues fraternities face around policies, accountability and student self-governance.

“She knows the real issues that fraternities deal with, and she was able to give us some feedback that’s worked around the country,” Hendel says. “She was very warm and welcoming. She didn’t give us a hard time for our issues, she just said, ‘OK, let’s talk about it.’”

Hendel plans to use Novak’s feedback to re-evaluate fraternity judicial procedures. Novak suggested a number of ways to ensure that sanctions against fraternities are educational processes, rather than just disciplinary ones.

“Kim Novak’s visit was an excellent educational experience for the MIT community,” says Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo. “She helped us ask tough questions, and her advice will be important as we continue working together to foster a safe and welcoming environment for all MIT students.”

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