Month: July 2015

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 31, 2015

In this weeks’ roundup: the pressure to be perfect hurts some students’ well-being, a push to expand training on sexual violence to K-12, and a Senate hearing on combating campus sexual assault.

Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection

We’ve written about the increase in students’ self-reported mental health problems here and here. This piece from The New York Time examines how the pressure to be perfect can negatively affect students’ mental health and may even be linked to suicide. In the transition to college, high-performing students who faced few setbacks in high school may suddenly find themselves struggling in more advanced classes or lagging behind more accomplished peers.”[C]ultural dynamics of perfectionism and overindulgence,” explain the article, “have now combined to create adolescents who are ultra-focused on success but don’t know how to fail.” As one counselor explained to the Times, “What you and I would call disappointments in life, to them feel like big failures.” For some students, this sense of failure leads to mental health issues or even suicide. Despite their struggles, however, many students try to maintain a facade of happiness and easy success, exacerbating the problem. At some schools, students even have a name for this phenomenon: “Penn Face.” As one student explained to The Times: “Nobody wants to be the one who is struggling while everyone else is doing great…Despite whatever’s going on — if you’re stressed, a bit depressed, if you’re overwhelmed — you want to put up this positive front.”  As a result, some schools are looking at ways to alleviate this pressure and to have more open conversations around mental health issues.

Campus Sexual Assault Prevention in K-12 

Campus Climate surveys are revealing that over a quarter of college women report being the target of rape or attempted rape before ever coming to college and around 20% of college men have committed some kind of sexual assault in the five years leading up to arrive on a college campus. This data is being used to add to the efforts of including sexual assault prevention in high school sex education.  The Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015, which currently sits in the senate,  would give high schools grant money for including rape prevention and consent education in their sex ed curriculum.  California is currently reviewing legislation to make affirmative consent education mandatory in high school sex ed programs.  At this time, only 20 states and the District of Columbia require high school sex education to include information about “avoiding coerced sex.”  Moreover, only 35 states even require education around either sex or STIs. “We need to get that education out there early on,” Dr. Heidi Zinzow of Clemson University, said in an interview with Huffington Post. “I think a lot of these men would think, ‘Oh what do I do instead, do I need to ask?’ They just don’t even have the basic skills or know what the scripts could be. They need the social skills to know how to get consent.”

Senate Committee Hearing on Combating Campus Sexual Assault

On Wednesday, July 29, 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), focusing on campus sexual assault. Senators McCaskill, Heller, Ayotte, and Gillibrand testified in support of proposed amendments to the HEA in the pending Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which include required campus climate surveys and confidential advisors for victims reporting sexual violence. Senator Gillibrand also submitted a letter of support from the Louisiana legislature, which recently passed a state version of CASA. Both committee members and witnesses voiced strong support for mandated prevention education for all students and employees. In addition, President of the University of California, Janet Napolitano, recommended that federal legislation be flexible enough to allow large and small institutions to address the different issues facing their campus communities. Responding to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s question about prevention efforts on the UC campuses, Napolitano said that online, in-person, and peer-to-peer prevention education are being used by the UC system to improve campus climates and promote community involvement to prevent sexual violence. Dana Bolger of Know Your IX also responded to Warren’s question stating, “the most important thing about prevention education is that it starts early and it just keeps going.”

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Campus Climate Surveys: Getting Started
Posted by On Thursday, July 30, 2015

In April of 2014, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault published a report naming sexual assault-specific campus climate surveys as a “best practice response to campus sexual assault” and urging “schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting [a] survey next year.”  We have long known that sexual assaults are under reported, causing it to be impossible to get a realistic understanding of the climate through reports alone. Climate surveys provide students an opportunity to share their experiences, as well as their perceptions and knowledge, anonymously.  Climate surveys can help administrators better grasp the climate as well as develop needs-informed programming and education. Climate surveys provide an assessment tool for campuses to make positive impact and show that they are taking the issue of sexual assault seriously.

Although climate surveys are not yet mandated under Title IX or the Clery Act, many suggest that they soon will be part of a school’s compliance practices. Under New York’s new “Enough is Enough” law, colleges and universities will be required to assess their campus climate every other year. Other states might follow New York’s lead. At CampusClarity, we want to make sure that schools have everything they need to be in compliance while also doing the best to create a safe and inclusive campus for all students. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be writing a series of posts about Campus Climate Surveys.  This is the first installment.

While there has yet to be a lot of research done on the effectiveness of climate survey instruments, there are a few trailblazers creating and implementing tools deemed successful.  If your campus is looking to administer a survey, take a look at these resources that can help you get started.

Our post next week will detail what we’ve learned from schools like the University of Michigan and MIT, who have already administered and published results from sexual assault campus climate surveys.

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Why Parents Matter: New Partners in Sexual Assault Prevention
Posted by On Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Red Converse

The decline of universities serving in loco parentis (in the place of parents) began in 1961 with the Dixon versus Alabama case that propelled due process for students into the limelight. Since then, universities have sought to keep parents at arm’s length. Orientation programs are designed to separate students from parents and ensure that parents leave their children as soon as possible so that the process of becoming a college student can begin. And universities use FERPA as a tool for keeping communication solely with the student and the university, despite parents’ objections to the contrary. But recently, parents have emerged as a focal point again for universities who see the value in partnering with them on a variety of strategies: for better 4-year graduation rates; for meeting university deadlines, policies, and procedures; for additional funding opportunities; and for helping their students succeed overall.

Rather than parents hesitating to send their students to college for fear of sexual assault, let’s invite them into the dialogue, and discuss ways they can help us change the culture together. Recent studies have shown that parents can have an effect on reducing not only binge drinking, but also non consensual sexual activity related to binge drinking.

In “Do Parents Still Matter? Parent and Peer Influences on Alcohol Involvement among Recent High School Graduates” published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, the authors found that perceived parent involvement leads to weaker peer influence and related alcohol use and associated problems. And in “Preventing College Women’s Sexual Victimization through Parent Based Intervention: A Randomized Control Trial,” authors Maria Testa, Joseph Hoffman, Jennifer Livingston, and Rob Turris designed a Parent Based Intervention (PBI) to reduce the incidence of alcohol-involved sexual victimization among first-year college students. Students who had conversations with mothers that received the PBI (an educational handbook) saw lower incidences of incapacitated rape.

With the enormous responsibilities and pressure that colleges are facing, it might be daunting to consider adding yet another subset to training and education around sexual assault. Some states, like New York, are even requiring that parents become a part of the college’s educational platform. Asking parents to be a part of your institution’s sexual assault prevention program, however, can be an important part in your prevention toolkit, and it can serve the dual purpose of helping to communicate your institution’s commitment to the issue. With myriad ways for universities to include parents (from admission events to orientation programs, and even a simple letter with resources and guides), the changing culture around parent involvement just might help us also change the culture on sexual assault.

For more resources and our webinar on getting parents involved click here.

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CampusClarity/LawRoom Update Courses to Meet New York’s “Enough is Enough” Law
Posted by On Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On July 7, 2015, Governor Cuomo signed New York’s “Enough is Enough” bill into law, mandating uniform policies and procedures to address campus sexual violence across the state, including “student onboarding and ongoing education.” New York schools must have policies in place to comply with these new requirements by October 5, 2015. To help New York institutions of higher education educate campus communities about their rights and responsibilities under the new laws, CampusClarity and LawRoom have updated their courses.

Basically, the new legislation codifies sexual assault prevention and response policies already required for the 64 SUNY campuses, extending them to private colleges and universities with New York campuses to create a consistent statewide approach with campus policies that:

  • define consent as a clear, unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in specific sexual activity
  • grant witnesses and victims reporting in good faith incidents of sexual misconduct immunity from drug or alcohol conduct violations
  • provide a Bill of Rights to all students, informing them of their reporting options, available resources, and the right to a fair and impartial process that protects their privacy and dignity
  • require comprehensive training for all new students, including first-year or transfer, undergraduate, graduate, or professional

Our courses already cover federal training requirements under Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act, but our employee and student courses for New York schools will also cover the new state law requirements. Specifically, the following courses will address the additional New York requirements:

  • Think About It: versions for Undergraduates, Graduate Students and Adult Learners, as well as a shorter Campus SaVE Act version
  • Intersections (combined anti-harassment, Title IX, and Campus SaVE Act training for supervisors and non-supervisors)
  • Bridges (Title IX and Campus SaVE Act training for all employees)

These courses cover the following New York content:

  • statements of prohibition and equal protection
  • definition of affirmative consent
  • explanation of the students’ bill of rights and amnesty policy
  • additional procedures and protections required in conduct proceedings
  • the long-term costs of sexual violence

Contact us for detailed information on how our updated programs help New York schools provide mandated training that covers this material with high levels of instructional interactivity.

[UPDATE 8/28/2015]: Our webinar on updates to our courses that help meet the new NY requirements is now online: “Enough is Enough” addressing New York’s New Higher Education Requirements 

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 24, 2015

In this week’s roundup, states are considering more laws to prevent campus rapes, survivors stories about sexual abuse at an elite prep school, and a decline in mental health at English universities.

Horace Mann Abuse Case

In May of this year, a group called the Horace Mann Alumni Coalition released a report detailing over 60 cases of sexual assault by Horace Mann faculty between the ’60s and ’90s.  The report reveals that, during this time frame, the Horace Mann school received 25 reports of abuse by more than 20 different faculty members. A recent Buzzfeed article details that in the past two years, 32 former Horace Mann students came forward to tell their stories with the goal of entering mediation with the school for a settlement and apology. After an extremely difficult multi-year process, the survivors were left with resurfaced trauma, minimal monetary settlements, and no closure from Horace Mann. This case is an example of shortcomings of sexual assault investigations as well as the lasting impacts that sexual assault can have on individuals and communities.  At CampusClarity, we are in the process of adding pages to our Graduate Course specifically around the lasting impacts of sexual assault. The effects do not end when the assault ends or even when the investigation ends. Instead, they stay with the survivors. As  Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book David and Golliath. “Even today I carry a death within myself…and I am like a decapitated pine. Pine trees do not regenerate their tops. They stay twisted, crippled. They grow in thickness, perhaps, and that is what I am doing.” The impacts of trauma are never ending, but neither is the change that happens within us.

State Legislators Confronting Campus Sexual Assault

In 2014, six states considered bills to prevent campus sexual assault. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, so far this year 26 states have considered possible ways to make campuses safer. The “scarlet letter” approach is currently being debated by the District of Columbia Council in a bill authored by Council member Anita Bonds, which would require a student’s permanent record note a student was found responsible for sexual assault or left school during a pending conduct proceeding. The argument in favor of the bill is, of course, that students found responsible for sexual violence could not move to a new school without putting campus officials on notice of prior misconduct. The other side of the argument, however, questions whether a permanent mark should result from a conduct proceeding that determines responsibility by a preponderance of evidence. And Zoe Ridolfi-Starr of Know Your IX said it could discourage reporting because it imposes such a tough penalty. Kevin Kruger, president of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education said, “it puts campuses in a difficult position, with overlapping state and federal guidance. That can be really challenging.” Meanwhile, Virginia and New York have enacted laws requiring transcript notations and they may not be the last. After a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found 1 in 5 college women experienced unwanted sexual experience, Bonds introduced her bill because “I hear these statistics and I am outraged as many in the community are.”

Mental Health Declines at English Universities

We’ve written about research that suggests students’ self-reported mental health is at an all-time low at colleges and universities in the US. New research suggests that students in English higher education might be similarly affected. The Institute of Employment studies found a 132% rise in students who declared a mental health problem in the past several years, according to Times Higher Education (THE). Interestingly, the rise seems greater at more selective institutions. As in the US, researchers suggest that the increase might, in part, be attributed to “a more open culture around mental health and improved diagnostic procedures,” according to THE. In light of the new research, some staff and students are worried government cuts to resources for students with disabilities might strain schools trying to support the growing number of students with mental health issues or disabilities. THE reports that “[o]ne university employee went as far as to warn that the change could force universities to reject applications from disabled students, while another feared that it could deter students from disclosing their disabilities.”

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Webinar: Involving Parents in Sexual Assault Prevention
Posted by On Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We hosted a fantastic webinar today with University of San Francisco’s Dr. Barbara Thomas, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services and Dr. Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life.  Dr. Thomas and Dr. Novak shared insights around engaging parents in sexual assault prevention and alcohol/drug use risk reduction. You can view the whole webinar below.

University of San Francisco aims to engage parents in prevention work from when they first consider USF as an option for their child’s education. This includes talking about sexual assault and on campus education efforts, including Think About It, at admissions events. Dr. Novak and Dr. Thomas also encouraged schools to use their Annual Security Report as a resource at admissions events and when informing parents of the school’s programming. From their experience, common questions that parents want to know include “Is your school under investigation for Title IX violations?”, “What are your prevention programs and are they required?”, and “How many reports of sexual assault do you receive every year?”.  These questions are playing a role in how students and their families make decisions about college, and so it is important to be proactive by having effective programming and transparent communication around sexual assault and alcohol/drug use on their campus.

Resources referenced during the webinar include;

We hope to continue the conversation about and share resources on involving parents in prevention efforts.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 17, 2015

This week a new movie anatomizes the Stanford Prison Experiment and how our environments influence our behavior, a California Court rules that a school’s hearing panel violated an accused students right to a fair hearing, and a new study challenges the belief that most campus rapes are committed by serial perpetrators.

Stanford Prison Experiment Movie

The fact-based dramatization of the Stanford Prison Experiment is released in theaters today.  The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted by Stanford psychologist Phillip Zimbardo in 1971. In the experiment, 24 college males were placed into a simulation where half were given the role of prison guard and the other half the role of prisoner.  These assumed roles had detrimental impacts causing the 14-day experiment to be cut off after just six days.  The Experiment has been inspiration for two previous movies and a BBC series, but this film is considered to be the most realistic insight into the actual events involved in the Prison Experiment.  The Stanford Prison Experiment was important for many reasons.  It took regular people – even referred to as “peaceniks” prior to the Experiment – and either gave then either a sense of power or a sense of defeat. “No, see that’s what’s been happening …we’re saying it’s a few bad apples, it’s isolated,” Zimbardo said on CNN in 2004. “But what’s bad is the barrel.”  The study suggests that individuals are products of the environments that they exist in.  While this does not remove fault on an individual for committing a crime, it gives insight into the importance of holistic societal change.  

California Court Rules Accused Student Denied a Fair Hearing

Last week, a California Superior Court judge ruled that in a Roe (she said) vs. Doe (he said) case, a University of California San Diego hearing panel violated Doe’s right to a fair hearing. The right to cross-examine the accused was one of the central issues in the case, leading the court to conclude that the “limiting of questions in this case curtailed the right of confrontation crucial to any definition of a fair hearing.” Specifically, the court found it unfair that the Panel Chair asked only nine of the thirty-two questions submitted by Doe, paraphrased questions, allowed “restricted answers and prevented any follow-up,” and put up a screen between Roe and Doe, denying him the right to confront his accuser. We have previously written about the right to cross-examine the accuser in campus sexual assault hearings, citing a decision by a U.S. District Court in New York, which found that constitutional due process in a case where a male student was accused of rape “required that the panel permit the [accused] . . . to direct questions to his accuser through the panel.” [Donohue v. Baker, et al. (USDC NDNY 1997) 976 F.Supp.136] And in its Order dismissing a lawsuit against St. Joseph’s University filed by a student suspended for sexual misconduct, a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania stated that the Office for Civil Rights strongly discourages schools to allow the accused student to personally confront or cross-examine the accuser. [Harris v. Saint Joseph's University (USDC EDPA 2013) no. 2:13-cv-03937] However, as the Title IX Blog points out, the recent California decision reminds schools that “It is possible to hold fair hearings and comply with Title IX and that is what colleges and universities should be striving to do.”

What If Most Campus Rapes Aren’t Committed by Serial Rapists?

A study published this week challenges the belief that most campus rapes are committed by serial perpetrators. An influential 2002 study by David Lisak and Paul Miller found 4% of surveyed men were responsible for over 90% of self-reported rapes and 28% of self-reported violence, suggesting that “a relatively small proportion of men are responsible for a large number of rapes and other interpersonal crimes.” Lisak and Miller’s findings were bolstered by a 2009 study of enlisted men in the Navy. The new research released this week, led by Kevin Swartout, an assistant professor of psychology at Georgia State University, found that “most college men who perpetrate rape do so during relatively limited time frames.” Instead of measuring the number of incidents that an individual committed, as Lisak and Miller did, Swartout and his co-researchers examined how many time periods in which an individual reported perpetrating rape. Most men (74.7%) “who committed college rape only perpetrated rape during 1 academic year.” Furthermore, the men at greatest risk of perpetrating rape changed: those men most likely to commit rape before college were not the men most likely to rape in college. The study undermines the assumption that there is “a cohesive group of men who consistently committed rape” on campus. Overall, 10.8% of the men surveyed in the study reported perpetrating rape. Swartout’s findings may change how institutions approach preventing and responding to sexual violence. Andra Tharp, a senior adviser for the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response division, told FiveThirtyEight, “if [rape is] mostly sporadic and opportunistic behavior, we need to think more about prevention and intervention — a broader public health approach instead of focusing primarily on a few high-risk individuals.”

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Cui Bono? New Ruling on Unpaid Internships
Posted by On Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When do companies have to pay their interns?

During the production of the film Black Swan, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman worked as unpaid interns, running errands, doing office chores, and making deliveries.

Later, Glatt and Footman sued Fox Searchlight, claiming they’d been misclassified and were legally entitled to pay as “employees” under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“At its core, this [case] raises the broad question of under what circumstances an unpaid intern must be deemed an ‘employee’ under the FLSA and therefore compensated,” the Court wrote.

“An employee cannot waive his right to the minimum wage and overtime pay,” the Court stated. “In 1947, however, the [Supreme] Court recognized that [certain] trainees should not be treated as employees, and thus that they were beyond the reach of the FLSA’s minimum wage provision.”

“When properly designed, unpaid internship programs can greatly benefit interns,” the Court observed. “However, employers can also exploit unpaid interns by using their free labor without providing them with an appreciable benefit in education or experience.”

“In sum, … the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship,” the Court concluded.

Thus, the Court ordered the case to proceed so a jury could decide whether the educational benefits gained by Glatt and Footman outweighed the value of their services to Fox (in which case they’d be “interns”), or whether Fox had been overcompensated (in which case they’d be “employees” and entitled to pay). [Glatt v. Fox Searchlight (2nd Cir. 2015) no. 13-4478]

Note: The Court also reviewed the US Labor Department’s six-part test for determining whether an intern is an employee (see Fact Sheet #71), and found it lacking, writing: “[W]e do not find it persuasive, and we will not defer to it.”

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our employment-side training, policies, and resources at LawRoom.

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[Free Webinar] Involving Parents in Sexual Assault Prevention
Posted by On Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What are best practices for including parents in our discussions around sexual assault, and how might they be invited to be a part of the solution?

Join us for a free webinar with the University of San Francisco’s (USF) Dr. Peter Novak, Vice Provost of Student Life, and Dr. Barbara Thomas, Senior Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, as they discuss how you can support parents and how parents can support your school’s prevention efforts just in time for fall semester. (Register here.)

Tuesday, July 21st

11 am PT/ 2 pm ET

In this webinar, you will learn about

  • new research that suggests parental impact on students
  • a suggested process for communicating with other departments
  • how to support parents through the Title IX process

Additionally, you will receive resources from non-profits that can be added to your website and a sample letter sent to all parents of incoming USF students. (Register here.)

Communicating effectively with parents is an often overlooked tools in prevention education. Dr. Novak and Dr. Thomas will discuss best practice and provide resources that you can use to prepare for this fall’s incoming class. Dr. Novak sends an annual information sheet and letter to all parents/families of incoming USF students around issues of safety and sexual assault. Dr. Thomas and her staff are among the many resources that are offered, free of charge, if parents wish to consult with a professional to find out how to have a conversation with their student.

The webinar is ideal for

  • Vice Presidents of Student Affairs
  • Vice Presidents of Admissions and Enrollment
  • Deans of Students
  • Conduct Officers
  • Counseling and Psychological Services
  • Admissions Teams
  • Title IX coordinators and teams

Space is limited, so register now for the webinar. Register here.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Saturday, July 11, 2015

In this week’s roundup we have a summary of recent court decisions related to Title IX, NY’s new “Enough is Enough” law that requires all schools to adopt an affirmative consent standard, and the Department of Education’s annual “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report. (For more information on recent legislation, check out our blog post here.)

Round-up of Decisions in Disciplined-Student Cases

Given the heightened attention on effectively responding to and preventing sexual violence by the Department of Education and Colleges and Universities across the country, it is perhaps unsurprising that there has been some pushback. In particular, students accused of sexual assault have been suing their schools because of what they claim are flawed or discriminatory disciplinary hearings. Students have brought suits on a variety of grounds, including violations of due process, contract, freedom of speech, and, of course, Title IX. Recent rulings in these cases provide insights into how the courts are interpreting a school’s obligations under Title IX. Though many news sites and blogs follow these issues, the Title IX Blog, maintained by Erin Buzuvis, a Professor of Law, and Kristine Newhall, a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies, offers particularly insightful coverage of these issues. In this post, Professor Buzuvis offers a short roundup of several recent rulings. As she summarizes, “in all of these cases, the plaintiff’s Title IX claims were dismissed early in the litigation.”

Governor Cuomo Signs Yes Means Yes into Law

New York’s private colleges and universities now also have to adopt an affirmative consent policy. Also known as “yes means yes,” affirmative consent is defined by the law as  “a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity.” The definition also specifies that “Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent.” The law also grants immunity from code of conduct sanctions for drug or alcohol violations to students reporting in good faith incidents of violence; provides a victim’s Bill of Rights to students; and mandates training on these issues. Read our coverage of this new law and others here. Read our coverage of California’s similar “Yes Means Yes” law.

Department of Education Releases Annual Report of Crime Statistics

Early this week the Department of Education released its 17th annual report on school crime statistics. The report covers crime information on elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools. The report’s purpose is to establish “reliable indicators of the current state of school crime and safety across the nation and regularly updating and monitoring these indicators.” In general the news for post-secondary schools is good, “the overall number of [on-campus] crimes reported between 2001 and 2012 decreased by 29 percent.” The report was not universally positive. There was one category of on-campus crime where the numbers rose: forcible sex offenses. “In the case of forcible sex offenses, the rate was higher in 2012 (2.6 per 10,000 students) than in 2001 (1.9 per 10,000 students).” Read the whole report here.



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