Month: August 2014

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 29, 2014

This week we have three stories covering the state, student, and corporate response to the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses.

State Legislatures Make Moves Against Sexual Assault

Yesterday we covered bills, laws, and developments at the federal level that you should be watching this Fall. However, proposed legislation at the federal level is only a piece of the full picture. Numerous state politicians are making moves to legislate how schools handle sexual violence on campus. This article provides an overview of some of those efforts, including a pair of New Jersey bills, one of which would allow the New Jersey Attorney General to fine schools up to $50,000 for failing to properly respond to sexual assault allegations, as well as California’s “Yes Means Yes” bill, which looks likely to be adopted in the near future. It also discusses a proposal to require campus climate surveys on sexual assault (much like those recommended by the White House Task Force) for all colleges and universities that failed in Maryland.

Student Activists (Continue) to Make Moves Against Sexual Assault

Even with high-powered corporations and powerful politicians rallying behind the cause of halting campus sexual assaults, much of the fight remains where it started, with student and alumni activists. This piece from NPR puts the spotlight on the continuing efforts of student activists, many of whom helped to kick start the national conversation on campus sexual assault still going on today. Activists like Dana Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky (founders of Know Your IX) have remained active after graduation, continuing to put pressure on legislators and education officials to properly address campus sexual violence. Current students are also becoming involved, such as Dartmouth undergrad Guillermo Rojas, who created an interactive map of on-campus crime.

Companies Make Moves Against Sexual Assault

The mounting pressure on schools to effectively address sexual assault has led to the rise of a variety of companies looking to help students protect themselves and schools comply with the law. These range from law firms and consulting firms offering guidance for Title IX coordinators to smartphone apps that make it easier for students to keep themselves safe and report assaults. This piece from Inside HigherEd notes the important role such products and services play in keeping students safe and staying compliant but also the danger that these advisors and companies may be more concerned with the reputations of the institutions that hired them than the well-being of those institutions’ students.

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5 Stories About Compliance That You Need to Know this Fall
Posted by On Thursday, August 28, 2014

We know you’re busy preparing your campus for the Fall semester or welcoming students to campus. Over the next few months, however, there are some important developments you should be following. Below is a handy overview.

The Campus SaVE Act Regulations

Yes, the Campus SaVE Act is already law, but the regulations are still being finalized and won’t be released until November.

Signed into law in March of 2013, the Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act. It includes three major provisions: it expands the crimes that schools must report in their Annual Security Report; it establishes what should be included in the school’s policies and procedures to address campus sexual assault; and, finally, it mandates extensive “primary prevention and awareness programs” — which include training for students and staff — regarding recovery, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct and related offenses.

After a process of negotiated rulemaking, the Department of Education published the draft regulations for the SaVE Act in the Federal Register this June, collected public comments on the proposed regulations this summer, and will publish the final regulations by November 1st. The regulations will be effective by July 1, 2015. Though the final regulations have not been published, schools need to make a good faith effort to comply with the SaVE Act by October 1st this year.

Check out some of our past coverage of the SaVE Act.

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act (CASA)

Of the bills recently introduced into the Senate or House of Representatives, CASA has received the lion’s share of the attention. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill are the most visible sponsors of the bill, but CASA enjoys strong bi-partisan support and includes prominent Republican co-sponsors such as Marco Rubio. The bill was developed by McCaskill and Gillibrand through a series of roundtables with victims, survivors, experts, advocates, and administrators. The senators also conducted a national survey of colleges and universities about how they responded to sexual misconduct on their campuses. Based on the findings of the survey and roundtables, the bill aims to curb campus sexual violence “by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.”

Specifically, the bill introduces fines for non-compliant institutions of up to 1% of their operating budgets and increases penalties for Clery Act violations from $35,000 to as much as $150,000 per violation. In terms of transparency, CASA would establish a government administered annual campus climate survey as well as a website run by the Department of Education with contact information for all Title IX coordinators and information on the Department of Education’s investigations, findings, and resolution agreements related to Title IX. Finally, the bill increases support and resources for victims and survivors through provisions detailing extensive training for staff, the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all higher-education institutions, and a required amnesty policy for students who reveal conduct violations (such as underage drinking) when reporting in good faith an incident of sexual violence.

For our past coverage, check out this list of our stories about CASA.

The Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act)

Introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, and in the House by Susan Davis, the SOS Campus Act is fairly straightforward; it would require schools to “designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault and prevention.” The Advocate would help victims and survivors connect with support resources like counseling or legal services and guide them through the reporting and adjudication processes. The bill emphasizes the independence of this new position, explaining that “the Advocate shall represent the interests of the student victim even when in conflict with the interests of the institution.”

Boxer recently wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, asking her to voluntarily adopt the provisions in the bill: “I am working hard to pass the SOS Campus Act in Congress, but our students cannot afford to wait another minute for that to happen.”

Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT Act)

Introduced by Representatives Jackie Speier and Pat Meehan, the HALT Act — like CASA — would improve transparency around campus sexual assault and increase the sanctions for schools violating student’s Title IX civil rights.

The HALT Act would require public disclosure of resolution agreements and program reviews from Title IX investigations and create mandatory climate surveys (the first of which would have to be administered no later than April 1st, 2015). It would also create a Campus Sexual Violence Task Force that would, among other things, publish an annual report on these issues.

With the praise of some and the condemnation of others, the bill would also create much stronger sanctions for non-compliant schools. It gives the Office of Civil Rights the ability to levy fines, “the amount of which shall be determined by the gravity of the violation.” It also gives students a private right of action. In other words, students could sue schools directly without going through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

New Training Materials

The White House’s Not Alone report promised a host of new training materials and information on best-practices for this fall. Below is a list of what we can expect:

  • This Fall — “the CDC, in collaboration with the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and the Department of Education, will convene a panel of experts to identify emerging, promising practices to prevent sexual assault on campus.”
  • September — “the Justice Department’s Center for Campus Public Safety will develop a training program for campus officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases.”
  • December — “the Department of Education, through the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, will develop trauma-informed training materials for campus health center staff.”

We look forward to the release of these materials, which should prove valuable to schools trying to develop and improve their comprehensive awareness and prevention programs.

Even without the passage of any new legislation, new federal regulations, along with the recommendations and workshops, should provide schools with a strong set of requirements and best practices that will help them change campus culture to eliminate sexual violence.

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Peter Novak Talks Think About It and Creating an Ethic of Care on College Campuses
Posted by On Monday, August 25, 2014

The University of San Francisco and Peter Novak, USF’s Vice Provost for Student Life, were recently featured in an article and video from the National Catholic Reporter. The pieces go into detail about Think About It and how USF uses the program.

Vice Provost Novak and USF collaborated (and continue to collaborate) closely with us on developing the Think About It program.

In a recent opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, Novak discussed the challenges schools face in eliminating campus sexual violence and substance abuse and the steps his university is taking to achieve this goal.

“Creating a new culture is the single largest challenge,” Novak writes, “as universities must contend with the many societal norms that have helped to shape students’ expectations of the traditional college experience. We must push ourselves to break new ground in the prevention of harmful behaviors.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 22, 2014

The fight against campus sexual assault isn’t limited to activists and administrators. This week we have stories about how student bystanders, parents, and faculty are joining the fight against sexual assault.

Male Peers Preventing Sexual Assault

A 2002 study conducted by psychologist David Lisak suggested that a small percentage — 6% — of male college students had committed rape, and two-thirds of those men were repeat offenders. But very few, if any, of those who admitted to predatory behavior considered themselves rapists, even though many of these same students admitted to deliberately getting young women drunk to the point of incapacitation for the explicit purpose of having sex with them.


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A New School Year — Let’s Talk About It
Posted by On Thursday, August 21, 2014

Today we’re publishing a guest post from Jennifer Waryas, the University of San Francisco’s Health Marketing Coordinator. Jennifer brings together different groups and individuals to coordinate USF’s harm-reduction efforts.

Today she is writing about some of the larger strategies she follows to create successful campus programming around sexual violence and substance abuse. She’ll be writing a post about once a month to keep us updated on her efforts, setbacks, and triumphs as the school year rolls on. You can also follow her at the USF Talk About It blog.

A New School Year – Let’s Talk About It

by Jennifer Waryas

And so the 2014-15 academic year begins . . .

In order for sexual violence prevention programs to be successful and win the attention of students, we need to deliver an effective, cohesive, consistent, and positive set of messages around the topics of alcohol, drugs, and sexual misconduct that empower all students to make decisions that ultimately result in a safe, fun, and successful college life experience. At the start of this new school year on the University of San Francisco campus, two big ideas govern our strategy: continuing conversations and coordinated messaging.


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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 15, 2014

The recent furor over campus sexual assault is not, of course, a reaction to a recent problem. How is it that a problem that has plagued schools for years is only now being discussed so often and so publically? Now that the problem is receiving national attention, what conversations are taking place about sexual violence and harassment in higher education? This week we bring you three articles about the expanding discussion that is shedding light on an issue that has been kept in the dark for decades.

Why Is the National Discussion About Campus Sexual Assault Only Taking Off Now?

While the ongoing national discussion surrounding campus sexual assault is a relatively recent phenomenon, the fact of campus sexual assault is not. In this piece from NPR, activists and administrators discuss the recent shift from “the dirty little thing that we don’t talk about” to an open and frank conversation. According to the godmother of Title IX, Bernice Sandler, “It’s like it came out of the closet. The darkness is over.” The article describes the Education Department’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter as a game changer that allowed for more open discussion and put pressure on schools to begin the long process of confronting campus sexual assault.


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Free Workshop on Consent
Posted by On Thursday, August 14, 2014

We’re excited to release today a consent workshop developed by our friends at the University of San Francisco’s Division of Student Life.

The workshop would be a helpful addition to any orientation program or a stand-alone refresher course for later in the year. It covers the definition of consent and gives some important statistics about sexual assault and intimacy in the campus community. It also gives students the opportunity to practice communication skills related to asking, giving, and denying consent.

Here are the downloads:

Although this workshop was developed for women, it can easily be adapted for students of any gender. In fact, we hope schools will tailor these resources to fit their unique needs and we encourage you to make refinements and improvements as you see fit. We do ask, however, that you share any changes you make to a workshop and make them freely available to the whole student conduct community (that’s why we use a creative commons license).


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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 8, 2014

Combating sexual assault on college campuses is no easy task. Here are three stories about what administrators, coaches, and app developers are (or should be) doing differently to create real change.

How to Help the GPAs of Victim/Survivors

The fact that victim/survivors of sexual assault often struggle academically following their assault is frequently discussed in testimonies, yet, like so many aspects of college sexual assault, very little has been done to address the problem. Victim’s rights and Title IX attorney Cari Simon discusses possible solutions to the problem in this piece, pointing out the importance of the issue—bad grades that are the result of the traumatic aftermath of sexual violence can limit a student’s future, preventing them from being hired for desired jobs or admitted to prestigious grad schools. Simon suggests schools take steps to make it easier to implement academic accommodations for victim/survivors, restore transcripts damaged by the aftermath of an assault, and be proactive about spotting downward trends that could be evidence of an unreported assault.

Football Coaches Taking the Right Steps on Assault

We’ve seen too many stories about schools, coaches, and athletic departments mishandling alleged sexual assaults committed by athletes. That’s why it is particularly encouraging to see this story of two prominent college football coaches taking their programs in the right direction. Head coach Charlie Strong of the University of Texas has suspended a pair of wide receivers indefinitely after their arrests on felony sexual assault charges, and University of Alabama coach Nick Saban has included a speaker who will talk about violence against women in his preseason camp. While these steps may seem small, they are both crucial and a move in the right direction.

Apps to Stop Sexual Assault

Could a smartphone app help prevent sexual assault? The White House, Loyola University in Chicago, and Williams College in Massachusetts all think so. Recently a variety of apps have been released to help students avoid assault or deal with its aftermath. Circle of 6, created by Tech 4 Good, a human rights mobile start-up, makes it easy to signal your location and what kind of help you need to six predetermined contacts. It is currently being used at Williams College in Massachusetts as part of a two-year pilot program. Other tech solutions to campus assault include Here For You, which provides resources for victim/survivors and their friends, LiveSafe, which lets students track on-campus crime in real time, and Callisto, an online tool for reporting sexual assault.

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Free Poster on the Campus SaVE Act
Posted by On Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Campus SaVE Act Any effort to eliminate campus sexual violence must involve creating and fostering a campus environment where survivors feel comfortable and confident reporting an incident. Unfortunately, according to the Campus Sexual Assault Study, only 5% of campus sexual assaults were reported to the police or campus security. Many students said that they weren’t sure how to report, didn’t want anyone to find out, or were worried that their complaint wouldn’t be taken seriously.

To create a supportive environment, the first step is to educate students, staff, and faculty about these issues and their respective roles and responsibilities — a fact recognized by recent proposed legislation andthe Campus SaVE Act enacted in 2013. Both require schools to educate students and employees on recognizing, reporting, and preventing sexual violence.

This poster helps promote awareness about the Campus SaVE Act and outlines what faculty, staff, and students need to know to fulfill their role in helping to create a safe campus community.

Download the poster here.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 1, 2014

One of the most important requirements of Title IX, and one that many schools may be scrambling to fulfill, is that any school that receives federal funding must appoint a Title IX coordinator. Today, we want to focus on this requirement, with a few stories about the duties of Title IX coordinators, and some interviews with Title IX compliance officers about what their position requires.

Must-Knows for Title IX Coordinators

This piece, written by Anthony Walesby, current Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs for the University of Michigan, and former federal investigator for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, outlines the must-knows for Title IX coordinators and the crucial role they play in addressing campus sexual violence. Walesby emphasizes the importance of staying informed about Title IX requirements since a school’s Title IX compliance is ultimately the responsibility of its Title IX coordinator, but he also points out that compliance requires the participation of many campus partners who have other interests and concerns. Therefore, Walesby gives this advice to Title IX coordinators:  “Your work may not always be appreciated or popular with everyone all the time, but in the end, you are doing what is in the best interest of your institution. Always keep that in mind.”

Q&A with Stanford’s New Title IX Coordinator

Much like Walesby, Stanford’s recently appointed dedicated Title IX coordinator, Catherine Criswell, comes to the university after a 19-year career with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, in which she focused largely on Title IX investigations. In this interview, Criswell talks about how that experience will inform her work on the Stanford campus, discusses the importance of creating “lasting culture change around issues of sexual assault and sexual violence,” and lays out some of her plans for her work as Title IX coordinator, including establishing a campus climate survey, as recommended by the White House task force report.  In addition to being a neutral investigator, Criswell sees her role as educating the campus community about Title IX rights and reaching out to students, faculty, and staff to find out more “about the climate around these issues at Stanford and about what they would like to see happen.”

Q&A with Harvard’s New Title IX Coordinator

We’ve reported before on Harvard’s new sexual assault policy, set to go into effect with the start of the coming school year. In this interview Mia Karvonides, Harvard’s Title IX officer (and another former OCR attorney) discusses the challenges of implementing the new policy across multiple Schools, each with their own Title IX coordinators, the process of formulating the new policy, and the resources available to Harvard students who are victim/survivors of sexual violence and harassment. However, as Karvonides points out, Harvard is one community and the new central office she heads – the Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution – will investigate complaints of sexual misconduct against students and “create a new level of continuity and consistency.”

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