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Month: February 2015

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 27, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have a story about college binge drinking and two editorials with ideas about how to solve this seemingly intractable problem.

Today’s Entering Freshmen Less Likely to Drink than Their Parents Were

So say the latest results of UCLA’s annual American Freshman Survey, which the university has conducted for almost 50 years. Of the incoming freshmen surveyed, just 33.5% said they drank beer, and 38.7% said they often drink wine or hard alcohol, down from 74.2% and 67.8% respectively in 1981. Similarly, the percentage of students who said they partied more than six hours a week fell from 34.5% in 1987 to 8.6% in 2014. Of course, these figures apply just to incoming college students, which is to say high school seniors. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that these students are still likely to experiment with alcohol once they arrive one campus, except without the drinking experience older generations had at the start of their college careers.

Lower the Drinking Age to 18

Drinking experience for new college students is exactly what Elizabeth Glass Geltman proposes as a solution to college binge drinking and the many health problems associated with it. In this Huffington Post editorial, Geltman argues that one way to handle the problem is to lower the legal drinking age to 18, the legal drinking age when she herself attended Dartmouth (which recently banned hard alcohol on campus). She contends that lowering the legal drinking age would take college drinking out of the shadows and give parents and universities the chance to legally mentor students in safe, responsible alcohol consumption, pointing to university-sponsored events that served alcohol as examples of how she learned to party smart.

Make Binge Drinking Uncool

A very different solution is proposed in this editorial from USA Today, which takes successful anti-tobacco campaigns as the model for anti-binge drinking efforts. According to USA Today’s editorial board, the best way to combat binge drinking is to replicate the success of anti-tobacco campaigns, which have managed to make smoking cigarettes socially taboo, with 88% of 19-22 year olds saying their friends would disapprove of a smoking habit. To replicate the same results with binge drinking the editorial advocates tougher enforcement of anti-drinking laws and policies, including more DUI checkpoints around campus and cracking down on the sale of alcohol to minors and underage drinking off campus, a strategy that produced positive results in a study of 14 large California public universities. According to the editorial such measures could cut down on the amount of drinking and begin the process of a cultural shift that would make excessive drinking as uncool as a pack a day.

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1 in 5 States Consider Arming College Students
Posted by On Wednesday, February 25, 2015

There are very few college campuses where students can carry firearms, either due to state law or university policies. For some years certain firearms advocates have been trying to overturn such prohibitions with state laws that would allow the concealed carry of firearms on college and university campuses. Right now campus-carry bills are being considered in ten states: Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

After years of trying to overturn prohibitions on concealed carry of firearms on college and university campuses, pro-gun advocates are now pointing to the alarming rate of sexual assault on college campuses as evidence of the need for the right to carry a gun on campus. According to the sponsor of one such bill, Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”

Such arguments beg the question: could arming students actually be an effective deterrent to sexual violence? In this post we will consider what we know about the circumstances of most campus sexual assaults, and whether or not that knowledge suggests that these crimes could have been prevented by the presence of a firearm.

Most Sexual Assault Victim/Survivors Know Their Assailant

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics December 2014 report on rape and sexual assault, approximately 80% of college women who suffer rape or sexual assault know their assailant. Any effort to deter sexual assault by arming students has to factor in that the vast majority of assault cases could only be prevented by a gun if the victim were willing to shoot or threaten to shoot a friend, acquaintance, or current or former intimate partner.

It’s easy to imagine how carrying a concealed gun could protect a woman who was accosted by a stranger when walking home from campus late at night. However, as suggested by the statistic cited above, the large majority of campus sexual assaults do not involve strangers jumping out of bushes and attacking women walking alone at night.

According to national president of anti-sexual violence group One in Four, John D. Foubert, “If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun.” The utility of campus-carry bills as sexual assault prevention measures should be evaluated in the context in which most sexual assaults actually occur.

Many Assaults Occur in Situations Which Involve Alcohol

According to the same BJS report cited above, 47% of college women who experienced rape reported that their assailant was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. A further 28% weren’t sure whether their assailant was intoxicated or not. Just 25% said that their assailant was sober. These statistics should hardly come as a surprise, given the well-documented connection between binge drinking and college campuses. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • 40.1% of college students reported binge drinking in the past month
  • 60.3% of college students reported drinking alcohol in the past month
  • each year 97,000 students between ages 18 and 24 suffer alcohol-related sexual assault or rape
  • each year 696,000 students between ages 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking

In addition, numerous studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and suicide and homicide attempts.

This data would seem to support the sentiments of a sophomore at Stetson University who said, “I think it’s a terrible idea. From what I’ve seen, sexual assault is often linked to situations where people are drinking, so it’s not a good idea to have concealed weapons around that.”

Campus-Carry Bills Would Arm Assailants as well as Victim/Survivors

It is important to consider that there is no way for a campus-carry bill to distinguish a potential sexual assault victim from a would-be perpetrator. Lawmakers who wish to protect potential victims of sexual assault must weigh the perceived benefit of arming potential victims against the harm of arming their would-be attackers.

In conclusion, before arming college students in an attempt to prevent campus sexual violence, we would do well to consider the reality of the circumstances of campus sexual assaults and do more research on what prevention strategies do and do not work.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 20, 2015

The federal government offers funding for research on campus responses to sexual assaults and an open letter against proposed state laws that would legislate higher education responses to sexual violence.

$1.5 Million for Research on Sexual Assault Responses

We’ve featured numerous articles in this space on the need for more information about campus sexual assault and what does and doesn’t work when trying to prevent it. Apparently the United States Department of Justice agrees, because the National Institute of Justice has issued a call for proposals for studies that will investigate different methods of responding to sexual assault on college campuses. They are offering $1.5 million in funding for research into how schools handle campus sexual assault cases. With numerous schools trying a wide variety of methods to address the issue, such additional data is sorely needed.

Educators Call on Legislators to Vote “No” on Sexual Assault Bills

This week numerous student affairs associations and victim’s advocates groups sent an open letter to all “Elected Leaders of the 50 United States,” urging them to vote down proposed state legislation that would require school officials to refer all reports of sexual violence to law enforcement, as well as bills providing enhanced legal rights to the accused, but not to victim/survivors, such as legal representation at conduct hearings, judicial review of decisions made in institutional proceedings, and recovery of money damages if the court rules in favor of the accused student.  This approach, it is argued, “ignores the balance set by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the scope of accused students’ due process rights.” The letter also points out that mandatory reporting laws for sexual assault complaints conflict with federal laws that require schools to give victims the option not to report their sexual assault to local police. They also argue that such requirements could have a chilling effect on reports of sexual assault to school officials by victim/survivors who don’t want the police involved. The letter is signed by higher education professional organizations, state coalitions working to combat sexual violence, and national women’s and victims’ rights organizations, including NASPA, Know Your IX, and the Victim Rights Law Center.

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No Shades of Grey When It Comes to Consent
Posted by On Wednesday, February 18, 2015

50_shades_of_blue-01-0150 Shades of Grey,the film adaptation of the first novel in author E.L. James’s best-selling trilogy, was released last weekend to what was widely expected to be a record-breaking box office gross. The movie grossed an estimated $81.7 million dollars through Sunday, making it the second biggest February debut ever, according to the LA Times. While the book series alone has already proven itself to be something of a cultural phenomenon, the release of the film and proportional increase in publicity for the story told therein present an opportunity to start discussions about healthy relationships and consent on your campus.

In fact the film has already sparked controversy over the way it presents issues of consent. On the one hand, much of the plot revolves around a written contract consenting to certain BDSM sex acts the titular Christian Grey wants protagonist Anastasia Steele to sign. That explicit written consent could be taken as an example of the sort of clear, enthusiastic consent students must strive for before engaging in sex. On the other hand, the book often portrays Ana as being less-than-enthusiastic about some of the BDSM sex she has with Christian. The tension between those two plot points (nicely explored in this article from The Atlantic) could be a good jumping off point for a discussion about what’s needed to obtain true consent at each stage of intimacy.

Similarly the relationship between the two romantic leads, which has been described as abusive by critics of the films and books, could be a good introduction to a discussion about the elements of a healthy relationship and the warning signs of an abusive one. Or (SPOILER) the revelation of the abuse Christian Grey suffered as a minor could be an introduction to a conversation regarding the depiction of male victim/survivors in popular culture and the often-overlooked existence of sexual violence perpetrated against men. Even if students haven’t seen or read 50 Shades (full disclosure: this author has not), the story and the sex and relationship it depicts could be a topical entry point to important discussions about communication and mutual respect.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 13, 2015

A new study suggests disturbing trends in the frequency of sexual assault reporting, what Canada could learn from American sexual assault laws, and what American colleges could learn from the military academies.

Do Schools Report More Assaults When They’re Being Investigated?

A study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that schools being audited by the Department of Education saw an average rise of 44% in the number of reported sexual assaults. More worrisome, however, is what happened after the audit ended—the average school went back to the pre-audit number of reports. One possibility is that schools over report assaults while being audited out of an overabundance of caution. Another uglier explanation, favored by the researchers, is that schools under report violence when they think they can get away with it. In any case, the New York Times article points out that climate surveys, a key aspect of the proposed Campus Accountability and Safety Act, could result in more accurate, consistent information.

What Could Canada Learn from America’s Higher Education Laws?

While The New York Times calls for passage of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would amend the Clery Act, Canadian news outlet CBC is pointing to that 1990 law as an example of the sort of legislation needed to address campus sexual violence in their country. While observers in this country often decry what they see as slow or inadequate responses to sexual assault cases on college campuses, CBC points to cases in which students used the Clery Act to force schools to respond to rape and other violence on campus in a relatively timely manner as evidence that similar legislation is needed in Canada, where a lack of such laws at the national level leads to an inconsistent “patchwork” approach.

What Can Colleges Learn from Military Academies?

Just as Canada may have something to learn from the United States, American colleges might take a page out of the military service academy’s book when it comes to sexual assault prevention. The U.S. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point have been under scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault cases for some time, as has the military as a whole. As a result, they have implemented more extensive anti-violence programs than many liberal arts universities. For example, at Annapolis, students are required to participate in training during all four years of their education. The program is further distinguished from other higher education training by the fact that current students lead lessons and discussions. That approach is already being considered by Dartmouth College as a potential model for their own anti-sexual violence training programs. It is also worth noting that both Senators Claire McCaskill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who have worked on reforms to improve how the military handles sexual assault, are now working together to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

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Free Checklist on SaVE Act Compliance
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The Campus SaVE Act requires colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs to offer “primary prevention and awareness programs” to all incoming students and new employees to “promote the awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

The Campus SaVE Act details a wide range of information that must be covered in a school’s prevention program. This flyer provides a convenient checklist for the Campus SaVE Act requirements, and can help you decide if our courses could help you fulfill those requirements.

Final regulations implementing the Campus SaVE Act take effect on July 1, 2015, so it is important you and your campus are prepared. Get the checklist here.

 

 

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 6, 2015

Dartmouth decides to ban hard alcohol and United Educators releases the results of their sexual assault study.

Dartmouth Bans Hard Alcohol

As part of a larger effort to address sexual assault by reforming Greek culture and the atmosphere of undergraduate social life, Dartmouth College has taken the more or less unprecedented step of banning hard liquor on campus. The ban will take effect when the spring semester starts on March 30 and will apply to any substance as strong or stronger than 15% alcohol. Other efforts include a four-year sexual violence prevention training program and self-imposed reforms of the Greek system.

The United Educators Report

Independent risk management and insurance firm United Educators recently released the results of a study of 305 sexual assault claims filed by 104 colleges and universities between 2011 and 2013. Their report has yielded a number of significant results of interest to anyone who follows the issue of campus sexual assault. United Educators found that of the 305 reported sexual assault cases, around 75% were investigated and 45% of those investigations led to the alleged perpetrator being found responsible. Other findings include the sanctions resulting from investigations where the perpetrator was found responsible and the link between the nature of an assault and the severity of the sanctions it resulted in:

More than four-fifths (82 percent) of expulsion sanctions were for perpetrators who either took advantage of a victim’s incapacitation or used physical force. Disciplinary probation and lesser sanctions were most often imposed by institutions when the sexual assault involved failed consent.

 

 

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Online Prevention Programs Must Be Accessible
Posted by On Wednesday, February 4, 2015

One compliance issue that deserves more attention is the accessibility of educational programs and activities — including sexual violence prevention programs — to students and employees with disabilities, including visual impairments. Not only is accessibility the subject of multiple higher education lawsuits, it is also the subject of federal agencies’ compliance reviews.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights enforces Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers public colleges and universities (except schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other health-related schools). OCR also enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which covers public and private colleges and universities that receive federal financial assistance.

In its May 26, 2011 “Frequently Asked Questions About the June 29, 2010 Dear Colleague Letter,” the OCR addressed accessibility issues in emerging technology:

6. Does the DCL apply beyond electronic book readers to other forms of emerging technology?

A: Yes. The core principles underlying the DCL — equal opportunity, equal treatment, and the obligation to make modifications to avoid disability-based discrimination — are part of the general nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA. Therefore, all school programs or activities — whether in a “brick and mortar,” online, or other “virtual” context — must be operated in a manner that complies with Federal disability discrimination laws.

Since issuing this guidance, OCR Resolution Agreements have required colleges and universities to meet accessibility standards so persons with qualified disabilities can participate fully in educational programs and activities.

In 2013, OCR reached settlement agreements with South Carolina Technical College System and The Pennsylvania State University. In March of 2014, OCR entered into a Resolution Agreement with the University of Montana to resolve a complaint that the university discriminated against students with disabilities by using inaccessible electronic and information technology (EIT). The UM agreed to:

  • Adopt policies and procedures to demonstrate its commitment to implement EIT accessibility across all disciplines
  • Train faculty and staff on UM’s accessibility policies and procedures
  • Establish grievance procedures for addressing complaints about accessibility barriers
  • Institute procurement procedures to acquire accessible EITs whenever technically feasible
  • Conduct student surveys and accessibility audits to ensure accessibility needs are being met

In December 2014, the OCR entered into agreements to address accessibility issues with Youngstown State University (OCR letter and agreement) and the University of Cincinnati (OCR letter and agreement). In both the Youngstown and UC agreements, OCR defined “accessible” as follows:

“Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. A person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability.

The Youngstown and UC agreements require an EIT Accessibility Policy:

[T]o ensure information provided through the University’s website(s), online learning (or “e-learning”) environment, and course management systems (e.g. Blackboard) (collectively, “electronic and information technologies” or “EIT”), are accessible to students, prospective students, employees, guests, and visitors with disabilities, particularly those with visual, hearing, or manual impairments or who otherwise require the use of assistive technology to access information provided through its EIT . . ..

Under these agreements, once the EIT policies are adopted OCR will conduct regular audits to make sure the universities and third parties continue to meet the agreed-upon standards.

Accessibility for prevention programs is not specifically addressed by the final regulations implementing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, including the Campus Elimination of Sexual Violence Act (Campus SaVE Act). However, while the Department’s comments are primarily focused on content they do address how the required information will be delivered, stating:

[T]he Department does not have the authority to mandate or prohibit the specific content of mode of delivery for these [prevention] programs or to endorse certain methods of delivery (such as computer based programs) as long as the program’s content meets the definition of “programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

Accessibility standards are evolving to keep pace with emerging technologies, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are currently the favored standard.

So, in addition to checking a prevention program’s content, make sure it also meets the “accessible” standard.

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