Blog

Month: October 2015

Accessible e-Learning: Developing WCAG2.0 Compliant Courses
Posted by On Thursday, October 29, 2015

Education about sexual violence, alcohol and other drugs, and healthy relationships is an important part of creating safe and healthy college campuses. Some schools have chosen to develop in-person training for this education, whereas others have chosen to use e-courses like CampusClarity’s Think About It. No matter what the method of delivery, it is important that all students, regardless of ability, have access to this vital information.

Accessibility for prevention programs is not specifically addressed by VAWA or the Campus SaVE Act. However, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights enforces accessibility compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act for public and private colleges and universities.

Accessibility standards are evolving to keep pace with emerging technologies. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are currently the favored standard. All of CampusClarity’s online student trainings meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA specifications.

What does this mean?

The main principles of WCAG 2.0 are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. There are specific guidelines that exist within each of these principles to ensure that accessibility is more than just about the text on screen but also about the experience of the user.

There are three levels of conformance. Level AA is the intermediate level of specifications, which deals with the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users. Level AA is the standard the government is using as a benchmark for accessibility.

What does CampusClarity actually do to ensure accessibility?

Here are some examples of ways that we are maintaining our Level AA compliance with the WCAG 2.0;

  • Always provide text alternatives for non-text content (1.1.1)
  • Provide captions for videos and animations (1.2.2, 1.2.4)
  • Present content in a logical order to enable index ordered tabbing through the course (1.3.1)
  • Maintain contrast ratio minimums to ensure sufficient contrast (1.4.3)
  • Provide a “skip to content” links throughout the courses (2.4.1)
  • Offers different ways to navigate between pages (2.4.5)
  • Always provide clear headers for tabular data,  and descriptive labels for all content (2.4.6)

Our courses are all built using an in-house tool that enforces compliance of accessibility standards as part of course design.  For CampusClarity, accessibility is not an afterthought but is core to our whole system of course development. Accessibility is an ongoing concern and implementation of best standards and practices is a continuing process. If there is ever a concern with accessibility in one of our courses, we would love to hear from you!

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Campus SaVE Compliance: Continuing, On-Going Education & Prevention
Posted by On Tuesday, October 20, 2015

You administered Think About It on your campus… now what?  The Campus SaVE Act requires schools provide “primary prevention and awareness programs” for new students and employees, as well as ongoing education, which refers to campaigns that are sustained over time, occur at different levels, utilize a wide range of strategies, have appropriate content for the audience, and provide ways for individuals to get involved.

Think About It, our flagship course, and its follow-ups, Part II and Part III, and the future release of Think About It: Continuing Students provide schools with options for ongoing education. However, there are many complimentary things that you can be doing on your campus throughout the school year! They fall into three categories of prevention and education. The different categories of prevention originated out of the health field with a focus on disease and illness. The goal of preventative actions is to stop further progression of the condition. In this case, the condition is sexual violence and the goal is for prevention efforts to stop 100% of sexual violence incidents before they occur. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of the work, and so there are other forms of programming, resourcing, and education that can supplement prevention. For our purposes, we have added a fourth and fifth category to the type of work happening on campus to remediate the impacts of sexual violence. We categorize these as Risk Reduction and Awareness Education.

Primary Prevention: Efforts that address sexual violence before it happens

Secondary Prevention: Efforts that deal with immediate effects of sexual violence

Tertiary Prevention: Efforts that manage long-term effects of sexual violence

Risk Reduction: Efforts that give potential victims tools that could minimize risk of sexual violence

  • Personal safety apps (Livesafe, Companion)
  • Responsible partying tips
  • Bystander Intervention
  • Self-defense classes

Awareness Education: Efforts that build awareness of the sexual violence among the target population (These can often fall into the categories of secondary or tertiary prevention, but it is important to remember that on its own, awareness is not preventative)

Your on-campus and online efforts to eliminate the incidences and impacts of sexual violence have the ability to make culture change far beyond that of just your campus. College age men and women are at the highest risk for sexual assault, but that doesn’t mean the problems stop when they leave campus. The education and programming they receive during their years in college will impact them long after they leave, creating a healthier and safer world for us all to live in. CampusClarity is intentional about including components of each type of prevention and education in Think About It to best arm campuses with the tools needed to make lasting change.

  • Primary Prevention: Think About It uses social norming by asking students “insights” questions that gauge their perspective and then tell them how their peers responded. Often students think that their beliefs make them outliers, when really most of their peers have the same concern as well as the same belief.
  • Secondary Prevention: Throughout Think About It, there are links to hotlines like RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and allow for administrators to include on-campus and off-campus resources for students to counseling centers, hospitals, or other crisis interventions.
  • Tertiary Prevention: Think About It can be used as a tool to educate peers about how to best assist those who are struggling with abusive relationships, have experienced sexual assault, or overuse alcohol/drugs.
  • Risk Reduction: In Think About It, there is a focus on bystander intervention to encourage friends and peers to intervene in situations of risk. We also provide tips on partying safer. By acknowledging that students will still engage in these activities, we give them the resources needed to do it in the least risky way.
  • Awareness Education: When campuses use Think About It, they also gain access to Talk About It, our online resources that include posters and white papers about topics like sexual assault, dating violence, and alcohol use. We also link to reporting policies so that students gain the knowledge needed to report sexual violence or misconduct.

While CampusClarity provides as many resources as possible, we are definitely not able to do this alone. It is important that campuses also enlist the help of our partners in this fight to end sexual/dating violence. Check out the links above for some options.

Is there programming on your campus that you’re especially proud of? We’d love to hear your success stories at our Annual Summit this March. Please email talkaboutit@campusclarity.com for more information.

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When Civil Liberties Collide With Civil Rights
Posted by On Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The First Amendment protects the free exchange of ideas in public schools at every level of education, and Title IX protects a student’s right to learn in a hostile-free environment at all federally-funded schools. When Title IX collides with the First Amendment, it requires schools “to mediate the tension created by the collision of rights.”

One former college administrator framed the issue this way: “Academic freedom is about education. When hostile behavior gets in the way of the educational process, academic freedom must give way to equal opportunity.”

In this post, we’ll explore the difficult balancing act required to protect these two fundamental values in an educational environment. School policies play an important role in these cases. As we’ll see, legally sound sexual harassment policies are critical to mediating this tension and avoiding lawsuits.

OCR and SCOTUS on Title IX and Free Speech

When Title IX complaints involve First Amendment issues they enter the realm of academic freedom, which the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has deemed a matter of national interest. In two landmark decisions, the SCOTUS ruled that state laws violated the First Amendment because they prohibited teaching any subject except in English [Meyer v. State of Nebraska (1923) 262 U.S. 390], and required professors of public universities to sign a certificate that they were not Communists [Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967) 385 U.S. 589].

In Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist. (1969) 393 U.S. 503, 511), the SCOTUS famously said that students in the public schools do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate” (Tinker at 506). Since no substantial disruption of school activities was reasonably expected or actually occurred, adopting a school policy to prohibit students from wearing symbolic black armbands to protest the Vietnam War violated the students’ First Amendment rights.

However, the SCOTUS also concluded that high school educators did not violate students’ First Amendment rights when they refused to publish the students’ articles in the school newspaper—one describing students’ experiences with pregnancy and another discussing the impact that parents getting divorced has on students—based on “legitimate pedagogical concerns” [Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) 484 U.S. 260].

In 1992, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia explained that government restrictions on speech are not absolutely prohibited. And he noted that sexually derogatory “fighting words” in the workplace are not protected by the First Amendment:

Thus, for example, sexually derogatory “fighting words,” among other words, may produce a violation of Title VII’s general prohibition against sexual discrimination in employment practices. [citations omitted] Where the government does not target conduct on the basis of its expressive content, acts are not shielded from regulation merely because they express a discriminatory idea or philosophy. [RAV v. City of St. Paul (1992) 505 U.S. 377, 389-390]

In 2003, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter to confirm that “There is no conflict between the civil rights laws that this Office enforces and the civil liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment.” In other words, Title IX prohibits harassment that is serious enough to limit or deny a student’s educational opportunities, not speech that is protected under the First Amendment.

In its 1997 Sexual Harassment Guidance, the OCR describes the balance between a school’s Title IX obligations and the protection of academic freedom, which does not involve bright lines:

Overall, the Guidance illustrates that in addressing allegations of sexual harassment, the judgment and common sense of teachers and school administrators are important elements of a response that meets the requirements of Title IX . . . the resolution of cases involving potential First Amendment issues is highly fact-and context-dependent. Thus, hard and fast rules are not appropriate.

Since schools must address these issues on a case-by-case basis, next we’ll look at faculty and student conduct to illustrate some of the factors that help schools determine when civil liberties must give way to civil rights.

Unpopular and Offensive Content

A recent case made headlines when Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis complained about her institution’s sexual harassment policies and found herself in the middle of what she called “My Title IX Inquisition.” Two students had filed a Title IX complaint for retaliation based on Professor Kipnis’s essay, “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” in which she wrote that the new sexual harassment policies “aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen.”

After an investigation, Northwestern found Professor Kipnis had not violated Title IX. As pointed out by Erin Buzuvis of the Title IX Blog, a Title IX violation requires severe or pervasive conduct that “would have to rise to the level of retaliatory harassment.” Additionally, Kipnis wrote about a matter of public concern. Without more, unpopular and offensive content about a matter of public concern does not violate Title IX.

In another case involving allegations of faculty-on-student harassment, Professor Silva used this example to gain his students’ attention: “Belly dancing is like jello on a plate with a vibrator under the plate.” Professor Silva said he was illustrating how to define concepts in a technical report by using a general classification and a simple metaphor. He was suspended from teaching a technical writing class.

However, the court found that Professor Silva was disciplined “simply because six adult students found his choice of words to be outrageous,” even though his example was used for a valid educational objective and was part of a college class lecture, and these were adult college students. Thus, the court concluded that using the school’s sexual harassment policy to discipline Silva’s classroom speech violated the First Amendment [Silva v. University of New Hampshire (USDC NH 1994) 888 F.Supp. 293].

A federal court found the definition of Temple University’s sexual harassment policy too broad because harassment was not qualified with a severe or pervasive requirement. Therefore, it could prohibit speech protected by the First Amendment [DeJohn v. Temple University (3d Cir. 2008) 537 F.3d 301]. The policy definition also prohibited “gender-motivated” conduct, which focused on the actor’s intent rather than the actual effect of creating a hostile environment that interferes with a person’s educational opportunities.

Another federal court rejected a student’s claim that Oakland University’s conduct code was too broad because the court concluded that the student did not engage in constitutionally-protected speech. The adult male student wrote “lascivious entries” in a Daybook assignment, expressing lust for his female English professor, which the court found this was not “pure speech,” as in Tinker. Nor was the student expressing his views on matters of public concern. The court concluded that “speech protected in other settings is not necessarily protected when made in response to a classroom assignment and when directed at one’s professor” [Corlett v. Oakland University (USDC ED MI 2013) no. 13-11145].

In summary, legally sound sexual harassment policies define the prohibited conduct consistent with the First Amendment and OCR’s sexual harassment guidance. The cases also provide these factors to help determine if a professor’s statements were protected speech, including: (1) the age and sophistication of the students, (2) the relationship between the teaching method and a valid educational objective, and (3) the context and manner of presentation.
And, finally, OCR also advises schools to seize a teachable moment:

[W]hile the First Amendment may prohibit a school from restricting the right of students to express opinions about one sex that may be considered derogatory, the school can take steps to denounce those opinions and ensure that competing views are heard.

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Campus Climate Surveys: Data Collection as Prevention & Risk-Reduction
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Sexual Assault Campus Climate Surveys are a hot topic for student affairs administrators around the country. Some schools have administered internal climate surveys, some have utilized prepared climate surveys from the AAU or HEDS, and others are in the process of developing and implementing climate surveys. While climate surveys are not yet federally required (although some states are now mandating them and the OCR has required them of schools under investigation), the government has urged schools to adequately assess the climate on their campuses through climate surveys.

At CampusClarity, we do more than just help reach Title IX & Campus SaVE compliance. We strive to eliminate sexual and dating violence on college campuses and beyond. Because climate surveys are considered a best practice for gauging campus climate, we have developed a tool that will help campus administrators tackle the huge task of building climate surveys.

Over the past few months, our product development team has dedicated countless hours to learning from others, developing best practices, and engineering a platform that will allow administrators to simply and swiftly build campus climate surveys. Our platform has many unique features made specifically for campus climate surveys, such as built in content/trigger warnings, a landing page for IRB approval, and default settings that will help increase completion rates. Perhaps most useful is that all data collected will go into the same LMS with data from Think About It and our other courses. Data can be cross tabulated by demographic, and will be delivered with sample size protection as to not out students with underrepresented identities.

We partnered with Callisto, a sexual assault reporting tool for colleges, to host a webinar revealing our climate survey platform. Callisto allows schools to collect data all year round about incidence and prevalence of sexual assault. When partnered with climate surveys, Callisto can provide administrators the information they need to provide prevention, risk reduction, and awareness education on campus. View the below webinar to learn more about climate survey best practices, Callisto, and CampusClarity’s new product.

Climate Survey Webinar

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