Blog

Month: July 2014

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act
Posted by On Wednesday, July 30, 2014

As of this morning, there is a new acronym you need to learn: CASA, which stands for The Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This proposed legislation was introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill and a bipartisan group of Senators, and was developed with information gathered at three roundtable discussions that we wrote about on this blog.

The purpose of the legislation is to “create incentives for schools to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators.” In other words, under this legislation there would be more significant consequences for noncompliance:

  • a penalty of up to 1% of the institution’s operating budget for CASA violations, and
  • increased penalties of up to $150,000 for each Clery Act violation

The bill requires schools to:

  • designate confidential advisors to (1) receive anonymous or confidential reports of sexual violence, and (2) coordinate victim support services and accommodations, with the decision to report the crime to law enforcement or campus authorities left up to the victims or survivors
  • encourage reporting by prohibiting disciplinary action against students who disclose conduct violations, such as underage drinking, in the process of reporting a sexual assault
  • provide mandatory training for campus personnel who are involved in reporting or resolving complaints of sexual violence, on how to identify sexual violence and its effects on victims and survivors, and provide specialized training for those who are involved in grievance proceedings
  • use one disciplinary process for all sexual violence complaints and prohibit athletic departments and other groups from handling the investigation or resolution of these complaints
  • disclose in the Annual Security Report how many sex offenses were investigated by the institution the previous year, and the number of those cases referred for disciplinary hearing or criminal investigation, how many of the accused were found responsible, any sanction imposed, and how many complaints were closed without resolution
  • conduct an annual standardized online survey of students to determine the incidence and prevalence of sexual violence, their knowledge of school policies and procedures, the experience of those who reported sexual violence, and the context of those reported incidents
  • enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement to define their respective responsibilities and to share information in sexual violence cases, “when directed by the victim”
  • provide contact information for its Title IX coordinator to the Department of Education, which shall be posted on a Title IX website, together with information about pending compliance investigations

(more…)

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 25, 2014

Here’s the latest news about college sexual assault and prevention efforts from the last week.

Clery Act Fines Almost Always End Up Lower Than Proposed

An examination of the 21 Clery Act fines that have been imposed by the Department of Education on colleges and universities since 2000 shows that the fines universities actually pay are, almost invariably, lower than the amount initially proposed. Of the 21 fines, 17 ended up being lower than the amount initially proposed by the Education Department, with an average reduction of more than 25% and the Pittsburgh Technical Institute receiving the largest reduction of 50% of the proposed $110,000 fine, ultimately paying $55,000. While this trend may seem at first glance to be evidence that the Education Department is going easy on Clery Act violators, campus safety advocate Daniel Carter points out that the reductions are usually the result of settlements between schools and the government, which, like out-of-court settlements in the criminal justice system, typically benefit both parties. Carter suggests that a more important issue to be addressed is the need for more transparency in Clery Act investigations, which imposes the additional penalty of bad publicity.

Campus Sexual Violence Will Continue “Until There’s A Cost

Representatives from 64 colleges and universities, researchers, advocates, and federal officials were among the several hundred people gathered last week at Dartmouth College for the Dartmouth Summit on Sexual Assault.  Attendees included Lynn Rosenthal, the White House adviser on violence against women, who issued this challenge to the audience:  “It’s no small thing that you are undertaking . . . [but] if we get this right . . . we will have a cohort of college students who leave school knowing that sexual assault is unacceptable.”

Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, issued a warning to schools that do not comply with Title IX and Clery Act requirements to address campus sexual violence. She is willing to do what has never been done before to punish noncompliance — withhold federal funds.

David Lisak, a researcher and forensic consultant, helped organize the summit. Lisak is an expert on interpersonal violence and his research found that serial rapists are responsible for a large percentage of campus sexual assaults. Calling on higher education leadership to step up, Lisak said that campus officials “need to have budgets they can rely on to build comprehensive, multiyear programs.”

Laura Dunn, survivor and activist, recounted how two of her crew teammates raped her when she asked them to escort her from one party to another. She called on schools to remove perpetrators from campuses because, “Sexual violence will continue until there is a cost.”

25-Second Sexual Assault PSA

It only takes one shot and 25 seconds for this video to communicate an enormously important message about sexual assault and consent. As a bonus, it also provides a decent illustration of how to care for a friend who has had too much to drink.

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2 Minutes Will Change How Your Students Think About Consent
Posted by On Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One of the most important things you can do to change the culture on your campus is to get students talking about consent. Today, we’re excited to publish a video that can do just that, from our award-winning online program Think About It:

Teaching students about consent is an important piece of any sexual violence prevention program.  Indeed, consent was at the center of the White House’s recent PSA announcement — “If she doesn’t consent – or can’t consent – it’s a crime” — and in California, the state legislature is debating proposed legislation that would require colleges to adopt a policy that defines consent to sexual activity as an affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.

(more…)

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 18, 2014

As anyone reading this blog or following news coverage of campus sexual violence knows all too well, combating college sexual assault is never simple, straightforward, or easy. This week we have four more stories that highlight that fact.

Why Victims and Accused Students Both Think the Campus Judicial System is Inadequate

One thing the accused and accuser seem to agree on is that their campus judicial system is inadequate because it perpetuates, depending on your perspective, either “slut-shaming rape culture” or the “war on men” and their due process.  Many campus administrators find themselves in a catch-22 situation when they use disciplinary proceedings to decide a “he-said-she-said” campus case of sexual assault. However, Title IX leaves administrators little choice but to err on the side of taking steps to protect campus safety even if the accused would not be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a court of law.

(more…)

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Small Acts of Kindness: Micro-Affirmations and Campus Climate
Posted by On Wednesday, July 16, 2014

While studying how to improve workplace conditions for under-represented groups, MIT ombudsman Mary Rowe discovered the pernicious effect on morale and performance of small acts of disrespect, which “seemed to corrode some professional relationships like bits of sand and ice.” She called these events, “micro-inequities.” They often arose around issues related to sex, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, gender expression, and national origin — “wherever people are perceived to be ‘different’.”

Rowe’s concept of “micro-inequities” is akin to “micro-aggressions,” an idea that has gained considerable coverage in the media recently (for instance, here, here, here, here, and here).  Schools trying to create safe and supportive campus environments for their students should take this idea seriously and consider ways to address these small poisonous acts.

Awareness is one possible approach. Professor Derald W. Sue, one of the foremost researchers on micro-aggressions, speaks about the importance of encouraging students to reflect critically on their own worldviews and to “become increasingly aware of the worldviews of people who differ from them.” Including discussion of micro-aggressions in bystander training could also help discourage these behaviors. Not only would this increase awareness about the issue, but it would help students gain the confidence and skills to speak up when they or a friend was in some way disparaged. Indeed, Rowe writes that “it it is not just inappropriate remarks by individuals that sting, but the silence of a wide array of bystanders.”

Micro-Affirmations and Bystander Training

Rowe observed, however, that micro-inequities were often committed unconsciously or automatically, making it hard for individuals to catch and correct their problem behaviors, and making awareness a more elusive educational goal.

(more…)

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DCL: Good Faith Effort to Comply Required
Posted by On Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the ED issued a Dear Colleague Letter because they “have received numerous inquiries from institutions asking us to clarify their responsibilities under the Clery Act, as amended by VAWA.” This guidance repeats ED statements from May 2013 with a bit more clarity: “until final regulations are published and effective, institutions must make a good-faith effort to comply with the statutory provisions as written.”

The ED’s guidance says good faith compliance with amendments to the Clery Act, which include the Campus SaVE Act, requires institutions to expand their policies to describe the procedures and programs that satisfy those new requirements. For example, the Campus SaVE Act requires each school to have a policy that describes the procedures that will be followed when a student reports a sexual assault incident and what standard of evidence will be used to decide an accused student’s responsibility for the assault.

Therefore, the ED will be looking for information in the policy statement submitted with a school’s October 2014 Annual Security Report that satisfies all of the requirements in the Campus SaVE Act, including a description of its prevention program.

(more…)

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 11, 2014

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s report on college sexual assault, released earlier this week and based on the results of a survey of 440 schools and three roundtable discussions, concluded that most colleges and universities simply aren’t doing enough to prevent sexual assault on their campuses. With that in mind, we want to use this week’s roundup to bring you three stories of measures schools and lawmakers are taking to address the sexual assault crisis.

Can Banning Grain Alcohol Stop Campus Sexual Assault?

In Maryland, lawmakers are following the lead of neighboring states Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania by banning the sale of 190-proof grain alcohols. Supporters of the ban, a group that includes state legislators and local college administrators, describe such liquors, which include the popular Everclear, as “a different category of alcohol” and “the worst of the grain alcohol.”

(more…)

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McCaskill Survey Produces Disturbing Results
Posted by On Thursday, July 10, 2014
McCaskill Survey Produces Disturbing Results

No Easy Answers At Third Roundtable Discussion With U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
Posted by On

We’ve previously written about the first and second roundtable discussions that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill held over the past couple of months. The third roundtable discussion held on June 23rd dealt with improving collaboration between local law enforcement and campus police, and the recurring question of how to bring perpetrators to justice. However, at the end of the day it was clear that there are no easy answers.

Nancy Cantalupo, a research fellow at the Victim Rights Law Center and adjunct law professor at Georgetown University, pointed out that sexual response teams have been a key best practice that brings internal and external people together. While she admitted that the relationship among the different perspectives and different goals may be dysfunctional at first, once they work through their differences, collaboration works.

Victim advocates emphasized confidentiality because “self-blame and shame has persisted among victims.” However, law enforcement explained that reporting to police so they can begin collecting evidence as soon as possible is critical to successful prosecutions in the criminal justice system. But, it was pointed out, until victims trust the system they won’t report to police and put their character and credibility on trial.

Carrie Hull, a detective with the Ashland, Oregon Police Department said her experience confirmed that confidentiality and reporting go hand in hand. After sexual assault victims were given options and, therefore, control over how their case was handled reports in Ashland rose 106% from 2010 to 2013. In Ashland, victims are given three options: (1) report information only, (2) authorize a partial investigation, or (3) request a complete investigation that will be referred to a prosecutor.

Jessica Ladd-Webert, the Victim Assistance Director at the University of Colorado at Boulder, agreed that when a victim has an advocate who gives them all of their options and helps them pursue the one they choose, it builds trust. Therefore, designating victim advocates as confidential resources, not mandated reporters, is critically important for victims.

According to these experts, giving victims confidentiality and control provides the support they need to increase reporting. The next question is how to make campuses safer by holding perpetrators accountable. The answer to that question is still being debated.

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Free Posters Address Hooking Up
Posted by On Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not Everyone Hooks UpIn the popular imagination, college life is a bacchanalia of hook ups, casual sex, and one-night stands. The truth is most students are not hooking up.

According to the latest data from the National College Health Assessment 29.6% of students reported not having any sexual partners in the last twelve months. Another 44.5% reported having only one sexual partner. In other words, most students are not following the hook-up script. Unfortunately, the misperception of college as a free for all still puts pressure on students’ decisions around intimacy and sex.

These posters help draw attention to these popular misconceptions by showing students more accurate information on their peers’ behaviors. With better information, students will hopefully feel freer in their decisions.  These posters empower students to make informed decisions — whether those decisions are to hook up, stay single, or be in a relationship.

Get the posters as PDFs:

(For more on this topic, see our blog post “Rewriting the College Hookup Script.“)

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