Karen Donoghue: An “Advocate” for Students

Doling out consequences to students who violate the school policy is all in a day’s work for a dean of students on a typical college campus.

Karen Donoghue, dean of students at Fairfield University, believes she is an exception. She explained that she does not like to be defined as “chief conduct officer.” Instead, she sees herself as “an advocate and a helper,” to not only her campus community, but also to the greater Fairfield community, focusing especially on sexual assault prevention.

In a discussion with students Wednesday evening, Donoghue discussed her active role in the Fairfield community, particularly in spreading awareness about the prevention of sexual assaults on campus. Donoghue recently attended a University of Connecticut seminar designed for college Title Nine coordinators to promote equal treatment and opportunity for both men and women on a college campus. Donoghue said she is eager to apply what she learned in the conference to Fairfield’s policies.

Karen Donoghue, Fairfield University Dean of Students
Photo Credit to OSV.com, “Our Sunday Visitor”

Donoghue has also facilitated self-defense classes on campus once every semester for women called “R.A.D.”, or Rape Aggression Defense class. “If you’re ever in a dangerous situation and you actually were going to get abducted, then you would be able to defend yourself,” she explained. The main goal of the class, she said, was to fend off perpetrators and save someone from a possible death.

Beyond the Fairfield University community, Donoghue serves on the advisory boards for the Center for Family Justice in Fairfield, Trumbull, and Bridgeport. Here, she said that her position involves providing resources to those in the community who have been victims of sexual crimes as well as domestic violence.

Donoghue has made great strides in working to prevent sexual assault both on campus and in the greater Fairfield community thus far, considering she has only recently begun educating herself about the topic. “Within the last year or so, I have become very knowledgeable around this topic,” she explained. Yet, she is passionate about the topic because she “realize[s] the stark reality that this is occurring on our college campuses and it’s not okay. It’s human rights. It’s human dignity,” she said. I feel like I have an obligation in my role to do something about this.”

Although advocating against sexual assault isn’t written in her job description, Donoghue argues that it’s an important issue to her, telling students, “I guess it’s both a professional goal as well as a personal goal.”


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