Month: March 2014

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, March 28, 2014

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we’d like to get it started with this week’s Roundup by highlighting three stories of activists who have found novel, creative, or unusual ways to promote awareness of sexual assault and support its victims.

Texas Safety University App

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault has come up with a convenient way to connect victims of sexual assault with services and resources using a new app for iPhone and Android. The app helps victims of sexual assault easily find resources on and off campus by simply typing in their zip code..

T-Shirts Against Sexual Assault

Helena College is using t-shirts hung on clotheslines strung around campus as a platform to raise awareness about sexual violence and domestic violence. As part of the Clothesline Project, survivors of sexual assault write messages about their experience on a blue t-shirt, victims targeted for their sexual orientation write on purple t-shirts, and white t-shirts are used to remember someone who died as a result of sexual violence.

Sexual Assault Victims Take Their Fight International

Twenty military personnel who were sexually assaulted while serving in the U.S. military have filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Unsatisfied by the military’s response to their complaints, and unable to sue former Secretaries of Defense Rumsfeld and Gates who are protected by immunity, they turned to the IACHR. They allege that their complaints “were not investigated or when investigated, the perpetrators received no to minimal punishment,” and that “reporting the rapes led to the termination of petitioners’ military careers.” The United States is a member and has been an advocate of the IACHR and its parent organization, the Organization of American States, which counts the majority of countries located in the Western Hemisphere in its membership.

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Beware Costly Unpaid Interships
Posted by On Thursday, March 27, 2014

Although educational institutions have traditionally encouraged internships (and some have expressed concern over increased federal regulation of businesses that provide them), unpaid internships may be more costly than you think. Not only has a recent survey suggested that unpaid internships are less effective in securing post-graduate employment than paid ones, and only a little more effective than having no internship at all,[i] but there are also real risks of lawsuits and reputational damage.

A host of recent high-profile lawsuits with costly legal payouts (e.g., $450,000 by Elite Model Management and $110,000 for The Charlie Rose Show interns) should prompt academia to make sure their students’ unpaid internships pass legal muster.

These lawsuits center on whether the internships were set up according to federal guidelines,[ii] which generally allow the internship to be unpaid (or paid by stipend only) if the training program:

  • emphasizes general skills
  • benefits the intern, not the business
  • does not displace current staff and is closely supervised
  • is not tied to a job offer or compensated

Under federal law, an institution must ordinarily pay “employees” whose time or actions it controls. Therefore, if the internship does not meet the requirements for an unpaid training program, the “interns” are actually employees who must be paid at least minimum wage, and possibly overtime.

Even a university is not safe from liability, as the International Business Times (IBT) reports. The IBT reports that Johanna Workman, upon earning her PhD in psychology, completed a post-doctoral internship for the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) for one and one-half years — working ten hour days, five days a week — without compensation. So, she complained to the California Labor Commissioner.

UCSF argued that the rules regarding unpaid internships do not apply to nonprofit and public institutions, and that  “[t]he University’s Psychology Intern program falls squarely within they [sic] types of public sector internship programs that the [U.S. Department of Labor] describes in its fact sheet, and such programs are not subject to the minimum wage and overtime.” The state, however, disagreed, ordering UCSF to pay $14,137 for failing to pay Workman at least minimum wage. [Workman v. Regents of the University of California (CA DLSE 2013) no. 11-43384]

And, former interns for the Hamilton College Athletics Department sued their college, claiming interns were paid a flat monthly or annual stipend resulting in an hourly rate far below the minimum wage, and that they were entitled to overtime pay under federal law for working in excess of 40 hours per week.  [Kozik v. Hamilton College (NDNY 2012)  no. 6:12-cv-1870]

Interns don’t even have to work directly for the institution for it to become embroiled in a contentious legal battle.[iii] For example, Wolford College is facing a class action lawsuit by its nursing students claiming the College required them to work at Collier Anesthesia without compensation to gain educational clinical experience. The students, however, worked the same jobs as paid Collier staff and had to sacrifice classroom time to do so. [Schumann v. Collier Anesthesia (MD Fla. 2012) no. 2.12-cv-00347]

Whether or not they prevail, cases like these drain precious campus resources and damage a university’s reputation. So, it’s important to protect your institution and work for the best interest of your students.

Some steps that organizations should take to minimize their liability risks and promote a high-quality internship experience include:

  • Reviewing all internship positions and programs, whether on or off-campus, with a human resource professional and possibly an employment attorney
  • Asking outside organizations that offer internships to pay at least minimum wage – Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism has reportedly begun taking this step
  • Implementing stricter screening of internal postings to filter out “shady” internships by unscrupulous third parties – NYU’s career center is doing this in response to a student petition, according to the Huffington Post

Without taking steps to address the risks of liability, the current legal climate may cause employers to second-guess (and possibly side-step) school-facilitated internships. The future of the internship may hinge on academia and business taking joint responsibility for compliance.


[i] For example, 704 employers responded to a survey in 2012, which found that internships are a key marketing asset for students seeking a job with employers that weigh experience heavily. However, the facts are probably more nuanced. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found in its 2013 survey of graduating seniors that only 37% of unpaid interns were employed compared with 35.2% of graduates with no internship.  On the other hand, more than 63% of paid interns were employed.

[ii] Basically, programs that focus on educating the intern, do not provide an immediate benefit to the organization, and fulfill the rest of the federal Department of Labor’s (DOL) guidelines, can minimize the risks of liability and legal penalties. DOL Fact Sheet #71 describes the general rules, but there are also special rules for certain occupations.  For example, program requirements differ for graduate students and medical student externs (DOL Field Handbook 10b18 and 10b19), pharmaceutical students (10b37(a) and (b)), and students involved in extracurricular activities (10b03(e) and 10b24).

[iii] For a contrasting view, see Insider Higher Ed’s editorial, Unpaid Internships Not Dead Yet.
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Counting New Crime Statistics
Posted by On Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In the Fall of 1962, President Kennedy sent U.S. Marshals to the University of Mississippi to protect James Meredith, the first African-American student to matriculate at “Ole Miss,” as he faced a riot aimed at stopping him from entering the Oxford campus. Today, nearly a quarter of the university’s students are minorities and a statue of Meredith has been erected as a symbol of the university’s progress.

Sometime during the early morning hours of February 16, 2014, Meredith’s statue was defaced. A noose was tied around its neck and a Georgia state flag with the Confederate battle symbol was draped over its face. Three freshmen were implicated and expelled from their fraternity, while the university is proceeding with disciplinary action. In addition, the FBI is investigating the incident to determine if this was a hate crime intended to intimidate African Americans.

Racially motivated hate crimes are not confined to southern states.  At San Jose State University in California, an African-American freshman was subjected to “disturbing racial indignities” by his white roommates, including fastening a bicycle lock around his neck and displaying the Confederate flag in their dorm room. The victim has filed a $5 million claim against the university, alleging that the dormitory adviser ignored warning signs of a potentially dangerous situation, and four of the roommates have been charged with hate crimes and battery.

Both cases remind us not only that ugly prejudices still exist on today’s college campuses but also that hate crimes such as these are covered by the Clery Act’s reporting requirements. The Clery Act requires every postsecondary school that participates in federal student aid programs to prepare an Annual Security Report that is made available to enrolled and prospective students. These reports provide information about campus safety so that students and their families can make informed decisions about where to pursue higher education. The “Clery crimes” that must be reported range from murder and sexual assault to auto theft and arson.

Effective October 1, 2013, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 amended the Clery Act reporting requirements. Prior to October 1, 2013, the Clery Act defined hate crimes as those that involved prejudice based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability. Starting with the Annual Security Reports due on October 1, 2014, hate crime statistics include two additional types of prejudice: national origin and gender identity.

Hate crime statistics also include these crimes which are not reported under other categories: intimidation, larceny-theft, simple assault, and crimes involving property damage and personal injury. It should be noted that the VAWA of 2013 added these new Clery crimes, which would also be reported as hate crimes if they were motivated by prejudice: sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

The new reporting requirements are raising questions about how to count these crimes, and the Department of Education’s Rulemaking Committee is working on regulations to explain compliance, addressing issues such as how to:

  • define the new crimes
  • count and disclose statistics for these offenses

One of the subcommittees has posted Issue Paper #1, which describes the current discussion around how to define new offenses. For example, it is unclear what definition of sexual assault should be used since the FBI’s definition of sex offenses has changed but the 2013 VAWA amendments didn’t reflect those changes.

One important question addressed by Issue Paper #2 is how to count a single reported incident that falls into multiple categories. Examples of how hypothetical incidents might be counted under different interpretations of the VAWA amendments were submitted by one of the negotiators on the Rulemaking Committee to illustrate the problem.

Counting stalking incidents has also raised questions, including: does the course of conduct count as multiple stalking incidents or one incident, and how do you determine where the crime occurred?

On May 29, 2013, the Department of Education issued a memorandum, stating that:

[F]inal regulations to implement the statutory changes to the Clery Act will not be effective until after the Department completes the rulemaking process … The Department expects that institutions will exercise their best efforts to include statistics for the new crime categories for calendar year 2013 in the Annual Security Report due in October of 2014.

The January 2014 White House Report on Rape and Sexual Assault told us that “the Department of Education is engaging in negotiated rule-making with the goal of publishing a final rule by November 2014.”

In the meantime, schools will need to make their best effort at compliance until these questions are answered. We’ll follow the rulemaking proceedings and pass along information as it becomes available, trying to shed light on what constitutes “best efforts” to report these new crime statistics.

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What Happened at NASPA
Posted by On Friday, March 21, 2014

This week part of our team attended NASPA’s 2014 conference in Baltimore. Beside some brief snow flurries, which frightened our California sensibilities, the conference was immensely helpful and interesting.

Peter Novak and his colleagues presented a panel discussion on Think About It to a packed audience on Monday. As the session started, ushers had to turn away people because there were no seats left. In addition to the 170+ in the room, another 100 or so participated online, asking questions as the session was streamed to them.

In addition to Peter, the panel’s speakers were Carol Day, the Director of Heath Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the Director of Orientation at University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at University of San Francisco. All of the presenters were excellent, sharing the ways they’ve used Think About It as the foundation for their drug, alcohol, and sexual assault awareness and prevention education program at their universities.

We were particularly impressed with Deeqa Mohammed, who was presenting at her first conference. She spoke about using the course during brief motivational interviews. She uses the course’s videos and interactions as launching points for more in-depth conversations with her peers. For example, she might play some of the “hook up” culture video to a student to encourage them to talk about their expectations around relationships and hooking up, helping them become more aware of the pressures they face.

We enjoyed meeting with and talking to other attendees who had valuable insights into new resources and pressing issues on college campuses.

For instance, we spoke with an administrator from Purdue’s Military Family Research Institute about the importance of meeting the unique needs of veterans on campus. Meanwhile, a representative of the National Center for Responsible Gaming explained the dangers of gambling addiction among undergraduates.

Changing campus culture and educating students about how to stay safe during their college years is an ongoing process that requires delivering information, having conversations, exchanging ideas, and creating a community of engaged and enthusiastic participants. We saw a lot of that at NASPA.

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Weekly Roundup
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For the last several weeks we’ve been covering an ongoing national conversation about the dangers and advantages of Greek organizations on college campuses. This week, three stories illustrate the fact that the problems and dilemmas posed by Greek fraternities are not unique to that particular brand of student groups, or even the United States.

Black Fraternities’ Hazing Problem

Most of that ongoing national conversation has focused on fraternities that are largely white, heterosexual, and, naturally, entirely male. But of course there are sororities, as well as black, Asian, Latin, and various professional fraternities and sororities. These groups often face different problems than those faced by predominantly white fraternities, but that doesn’t mean that they are problem free, or should be ignored in a conversation about the dilemmas posed by student groups. A good example is provided by this story about hazing and black fraternities—since the beginning of 2014, more than 17 members of black fraternities at three different universities have been arrested for hazing.

Student Co-op’s Drug Problem

Nor are problems like substance abuse limited to student groups with the word “fraternity” or “sorority” at the end of their name. Take, for example, the latest bit of drama coming from U.C. Berkeley, this time out of its student cooperative system, the largest in the country. Cloyne Court, which is itself the largest housing co-operative in the country, recently settled a lawsuit brought by the family of resident John Gibson, who has been in a drug-induced coma since he overdosed while living at Cloyne in 2010. Faced with “unaffordably high” insurance rates, Berkeley Student Cooperative president said, “We need to make a direct response to this settlement to show our efforts to prevent further incidences and liability. A change needs to happen now.” Radical changes to address what they see as a culture of substance abuse at Cloyne, include evicting all but one of the co-op’s current residents, and rebranding it as an academic-themed, substance-free residence.

Portugal’s Hazing Problem

The drowning deaths of six Portuguese university students in a single hazing (or praxes) incident, has sparked a national debate in that country about whether or not the tradition of hazing first-year students should be banned. Unlike in this country, hazing in Portugal is not associated with student groups, but is instead a general rite of initiation for incoming students, demonstrating that the inclination towards reckless behavior amongst young people is one that cannot be solved simply by targeting specific, or even all, student groups.

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Beware of Fine Wines and Craft Brews
Posted by On Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ever sat down at a bar, had one or two drinks, felt fine, then got up and discovered you could barely stand on two feet? This happens when what we think is one or two drinks turns out to be four or five. A Long Island iced tea, for instance, has five shots of liquor in it!

Usually that kind of mistake is reserved for drinks mixed with hard alcohols like vodka or whiskey. But recently, it seems, beers and wines have been infiltrating the “hard” category too.

According to a recent article in Scientific American, “In the past two decades the maximum alcohol content of wine has crept up from about 13 percent to, in some cases, northward of 17 percent.” Apparently, the surge in popularity for high-alcohol wines traces back to the famous wine critic Robert Parker’s influential praise of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage, increasing the demand for similar, richer fruit flavored wines, which tend to have a higher alcohol content.

In order to produce the same rich, fruit flavored wines but with lower alcohol content, scientists have been “bioprospecting” for new, wild yeast strains that will turn less of the grapes’ sugar to alcohol. And it looks like they might have found one, Metschnikowia pulcherrima.

That’s great news for wine connoisseurs, but wine isn’t the only popular drink that’s getting stronger.

The craft beer movement has also produced some powerful “high gravity” brews. In fact, Tennessee lawmakers are considering changing the law so grocery stores can stock stronger beers. Currently, anything with 6.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) or higher is taxed as liquor and has to be sold through liquor distributors, a major impediment to the growth of the state’s local craft beer industry.

Meanwhile, in Europe there’s been a battle brewing — if you can forgive the pun — over who can craft the strongest beer. The contenders have fantastical names like “Tactical Nuclear Penguin brew,” “End of History,” and “Armageddon.”

Currently, Brewmeister in Scotland wears the title belt with its aptly-named “Snake Venom.” “Snake Venom” is 67.5% ABV or 135 proof. That’s stronger than whiskey and much stronger than your typical college selection of Budweiser and Coors, which weigh in at about 5% ABV. “Snake Venom” is so strong that the brewers tie a yellow warning label on the necks of the bottles.

Our courses pay particular attention to educating students about “one standard drink.” For beer that’s a 12 oz. pour, and for wine, a 5 oz. pour. Of course, all that also depends on how strong your beer and wine are. These standard drinks are estimated for beer that’s roughly 5% ABV and wine that’s roughly 12%. So, as beers and wine get stronger, their standard pours get smaller.

Fortunately, it sounds like some students are aware of these dangers. For instance, we’ve heard second-hand reports of college parties serving only light beers (which tend to have a lower alcohol content) in order to prevent partygoers from getting too intoxicated.

Indeed, it seems unlikely that expensive craft brews and fine wines will be infiltrating campuses full of cash-strapped students. “Snake Venom,” for instance, sells for $80 a bottle. Nonetheless it might be worth an administrator’s time to keep an eye on the popular campus brews.

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Free Poster on Preventing Sexual Assault
Posted by On Friday, March 14, 2014


We’ve had a lot of positive responses to this ad we ran in NASPA’s magazine. Administrators and advocates have been asking us for a copy to use on their campus. It’s based on one of the posters that we offer schools as part of our training program, so we decided to make it freely available to anyone who would like to use it.

To download a high-quality image, please click here.

We’ve talked about the need for schools to have ongoing prevention efforts. Posters like this one can be part of those efforts, helping shape perceptions around sexual assault and substance abuse.

Talk to us to find out more about the resources we provide. Give us a call (800.652.9546) or go to our website.

If you’ll be at NASPA next week, visit us at Booth 504 in the exhibit hall or catch us…

Monday (March 17th) from 10-11 (314-Convention Center)
Peter Novak will be leading a presentation on Think About It

Tuesday (March 18th) from 9 to 10:15  (Hall E-Convention Center)
We’ll be answering questions at a poster session on Think About It

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Weekly Roundup
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A national fraternity is making big changes, while college presidents don’t think they have to. It’s this week’s Weekly Roundup!

College Presidents Agree Colleges Have a Sexual Assault Problem—Just Not Their College

Much of this blog is dedicated to the epidemic of sexual assaults afflicting college campuses. Much of that coverage has focused on schools’ all-too-often inadequate responses to allegations of sexual assault. Now, a new study suggests that college presidents are aware of at least part of the problem—71% of college presidents agree that institutions of higher education need to improve their response to sexual assault. Which institutions exactly need to clean up their act is unclear however, as 95% of those presidents surveyed asserted that their schools “handle sexual assault allegations appropriately.”

New Lawsuit Challenges the Campus SaVE Act

One possible solution to the issues 95% of college president’s don’t think their institutions have is the Campus SaVE Act, which lays forth at least some guidelines for how schools deal with and attempt to prevent sexual assault. However, a lawsuit filed earlier this month asks a federal court to stop application of Campus SaVE Act provisions in all campus disciplinary proceedings, as well as a pending federal investigation of the University of Virginia’s mishandling of a sexual assault case.  The lawsuit contends that the Campus SaVE Act, which took effect last October, is one step forward, two steps back for victims of sexual assault because it “eliminat[es] the preponderance standard set forth three years ago by the DOE. It also removes the time limit for colleges to resolve sexual assault cases.” They want the court to resolve any conflicts between the Title IX guidelines in the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and the Campus SaVE Act.

However, U.S. Senator Robert Casey, the senator who originally drafted the Campus SaVE Act, says the Campus SaVE Act was not intended to supersede Title IX requirements in the DCL. Casey told the Rulemaking Committee currently drafting the implementing regulations that, “institutions will still be subject to Title IX obligations … to use the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard,” as well as the requirement that proceedings be “prompt and equitable.”

SAE Fraternity Ends Hazing Nationwide

In the past few weeks we’ve included stories about the pros and cons of the impact Greek organizations have on campuses and student life. Now, it seems that at least one Greek organization—the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon—has been listening to their critics. Their national office announced this week that, following a number of deaths linked to hazing and substance abuse, they would end hazing at their chapters nationwide.

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Think About It at NASPA 2014
Posted by On Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Next week the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) will be holding their annual conference in Baltimore. We’re excited to announce that Peter Novak, Vice Provost for Student Life at USF, is coordinating a presentation on Think About It at 10 am on Monday, March 17th.

Think About It is a comprehensive online training program that we developed in collaboration with USF to help schools reduce sexual violence and substance abuse. The course won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.

The session is called “Beyond Compliance: a comprehensive, interactive, and engaging campus-wide alcohol/drugs and sexual violence prevention curriculum.” The presenters include Carol Day, the director of Health Education Services at Georgetown University, Cori Planagan, the director of orientation at the University of Idaho, and Deeqa Mohamed, a Student Peer Educator at USF.

They will discuss their experiences integrating Think About It into a diverse range of campus prevention programming, covering topics from digital peer mentoring and social norming to creating community partnerships.

Ultimately, Think About It and our follow-up courses should augment a larger set of ongoing campus initiatives. That’s why we’ve been developing materials alongside USF — such as workshop guides and posters — to help schools move beyond compliance with the SaVE Act and Title IX to encourage deeper student engagement with the issues of sexual violence and  substance abuse.

As we hope this presentation will show, the online courses themselves, with their rich media interactions and compelling stories, also provide administrators with invaluable tools for engaging their students in innovative ways.

For instance, we’ve talked to residence hall advisers who use the BAC Apparatus during orientation to lead conversations with incoming students about smart drinking. We’ve also talked to first-years who have used the videos and stories as touchstones for their own discussions about these important issues.

If you miss the presentation, we will also be hosting a poster session on Tuesday from 9 to 10:15 as well as running a booth in the exhibit hall.

We’re excited about the opportunity to share more at the presentation. We hope you will join us.

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Conduct Hearings vs. Criminal Justice
Posted by On Tuesday, March 11, 2014

In addition to the flood of Title IX lawsuits filed by female college students against their schools for failing to adequately respond to sexual assault complaints, schools are now facing a rising number of lawsuits filed against them by male students accused of sexual assault. These students claim that they have suffered damage to their reputations and emotional distress. They also claim that student conduct hearings violate their due process rights and are biased in favor of their female accusers.

This places schools in a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, if they don’t “take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence” they face a lawsuit from the victim. On the other hand, if they don’t turn student conduct hearings into a court of law or refer all sexual assault complaints to the criminal justice system they face lawsuits for not complying with the accused students’ due process demands.

Previous posts examine the differences between the standard of proof and right to cross-examine required in student conduct hearings on the one hand, and criminal trials on the other. These differences reflect the fact that student hearings are not courts of law, while recognizing that accused students must receive a fundamentally fair hearing.

Many sexual assault victims choose not to pursue criminal charges against the accused and, unfortunately, there are good reasons for their decision that we will discuss. Therefore, in order to fulfill its obligations under Title IX to end sexual harassment (including sexual assault) whenever it knows or should know it exists on campus, each school should be taking a hard look at its disciplinary proceedings to make sure its hearing process is fair, prompt, and impartial.

Criminal Justice for Sexual Assault Victims

How effective is the criminal justice system at handling sexual assault cases? Dr. Rebecca Campbell’s research found 86% of sexual assaults reported to police are never referred to prosecutors, and 90% of victims felt upset and re-traumatized by their interaction with law enforcement when they reported a sexual assault.

Dr. Campbell’s research is consistent with the RAINN website’s statistics, which show that 8 out of 100 police reports are prosecuted and half of those reports result in a felony conviction. This means only 4 out of 100 sexual assault complaints result in a conviction.

One study found that survivors of acquaintance assault are less likely to notify police because they:

  • are too embarrassed
  • fear reprisal
  • think the police won’t believe them
  • believe the police would be ineffective
  • don’t consider themselves crime victims

When research shows that false sexual assault reports are rare and 96% of sexual assault cases are rejected by prosecutors, it’s not surprising that victims are reluctant to make police reports.

DOJ’s Investigation of Missoula County Attorney’s Office

The criminal justice system of Missoula, Montana provides a high-profile case in point. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued its findings after investigating the Missoula Police Department, and concluded that the MPD compromised investigations and deprived “female sexual assault victims of basic legal protections.”

The DOJ also investigated the Missoula County Attorney’s Office. The DOJ recently released its findings that, even when Missoula police did refer sexual assault cases to the County Attorney’s Office, it refused to prosecute “nearly every case of non-stranger assault” involving a victim who was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. Since 85-90% of campus sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knew and 72% of college women who were raped were intoxicated at the time of the attack (Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Mohler-Kuo, et al., 2004), this is a major deterrent to reporting these crimes.

In fact, in one case cited by the DOJ the perpetrator admitted raping an unconscious woman and the County Attorney’s Office still declined to prosecute. Based on its investigation, the DOJ concluded there was pervasive gender bias against women who reported sexual assaults to local police:

[T]he County Attorney’s Office’s handling of crimes of sexual assault is indicative of unlawful gender bias, perpetuates a culture that tolerates sexual assault, dissuades victims from reporting crimes, leaves violent criminal activity unaddressed, and compromises the safety of all women in Missoula. Such a situation strongly suggests that MCAO stands in violation of the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination laws.”

Given the institutional and individual barriers to ending acquaintance assault through the criminal justice system, student conduct hearings are critical to the success of a campus sexual assault prevention program provided the disciplinary process meets Title IX and Campus SaVE Act requirements.

Student Conduct Hearings Requirements

Proper hearing procedures and qualified hearing officials are essential to meeting a school’s legal obligations and managing risk in sexual assault cases.

Both Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act require schools to have a disciplinary process that provides prompt, fair, and impartial investigations and resolutions of sexual misconduct complaints. The Campus SaVE Act also requires that disciplinary proceedings are “conducted by officials who receive annual training on the issues related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and how to conduct an investigation and hearing process that protects the safety of victims and promotes accountability.”

Therefore, the first step is to train members of the campus community who investigate sexual assault complaints and are involved in student disciplinary proceedings. Getting to the truth in a case involving allegations of alcohol-facilitated, non-stranger sexual assault with no witnesses is a difficult and emotional process. It requires knowledge of the unique challenges presented in these cases.

The next step is to make sure that a school’s hearing procedures provide a solid framework for fair and impartial hearings. Title IX requires that a school must provide grievance procedures for:

  • reporting sexual misconduct, including sexual assault
  • allowing equal opportunities for each party to present witnesses and evidence
  • using the preponderance of the evidence to resolve complaints involving sexual misconduct
  • notifying both parties of the outcome of the complaint (determination and any sanction imposed)
  • giving either party the right to appeal the decision

Under the Campus SaVE Act, schools must disclose their policies that establish these procedural requirements, and the Department of Education expects the policy to reflect the institution’s practices. Simply having a policy that is not consistently followed will not pass a compliance review.

Schools have their work cut out for them. They must protect the safety of the campus community by encouraging reporting and holding perpetrators accountable. Each school is unique and has its own set of challenges but the way forward is the same: educate students and employees, and implement fundamentally fair disciplinary procedures designed to eliminate campus sexual violence and the risk of being sued in the first place.

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