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A Response from CampusClarity to the Campus Reform Article

Posted by On Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In response to the numerous questions CampusClarity received today regarding an article published in Campus Reform, we’ve published a detailed Q&A document that addresses the questions, comments, and concerns.

CampusClarity, a division of LawRoom, provides training to over 500 colleges and universities across the country. Think About It is our online training course based on extensive research and expert participation that educates students about sexual violence and substance abuse prevention. Presently, the course has been taken by over 1 million undergraduate and graduate students. Think About It helps schools meet their compliance requirements under Title IX and the Campus Save Act.

As part of Think About It, schools have the option of including surveys that ask students about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sex and substance use. Schools can use data from these questions to tailor campus programming to the unique needs of their student body.

While the course may be mandatory in some schools, the questions are not. Every question includes a “no comment” answer option that students can select if they do not wish to respond to the question. Individual students are not connected to their answers — the data are de-identified.

The following addresses many of the questions we received in response to the January 12th article.

Are USC students required to detail sexual history before registering for classes?

No. USC, like many other campuses, chose to require students to complete Think About It in order to register for classes, but students were not required to answer the survey questions, including those related to sexual history.

Schools have the option of including short surveys that are interspersed throughout the course. In these surveys, students are asked about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sexual activity and substance use. But students can choose not to answer these questions.

Are the questions mandatory?

No. Every question has a “no comment” option if students do not wish to answer.

Why are the questions asked?

By showing students’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors around intimacy and substance use, the data from these questions allow schools to better tailor their prevention programming to the unique needs of their student population.

Are students’ identities connected to their answers?

No. Answer data is de-identified and aggregated. No one can see how an individual student responded to the survey questions. School administrators can only see how students have answered in the aggregate. We take privacy very seriously.

You can read more about the personal questions and privacy in our white paper on the topic: http://www.lawroom.com/Brochure/TAI_questions.pdf

Is the training mandatory?

The Campus Save Act mandates that schools offer training to their students on sexual violence prevention. Additionally, in its Title IX FAQ, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recommends schools offer “age-appropriate training to its students regarding Title IX and sexual violence” (J-4). We provide different versions of the course for graduate students, adult learners, and undergraduates.

In short, schools must offer the training but do not have to mandate the training. Many schools, however, do require students to complete it because of the importance of these issues to the health and well-being of their students.

Why do schools offer the training?

Schools offer training in order to help empower students to make safe and healthy choices around intimacy and substance use. The training also helps schools comply with Federal regulations, specifically Title IX and the Campus Save Act.

How is consent defined in the course?

State-specific legal definitions of consent to sexual activity and criminal sexual assault are included in the courses, so a student can read summaries of the relevant state laws, as well as the statutes themselves on a range of laws related to sexual violence.

In California, for instance, the page on consent includes both the criminal law definition and the affirmative consent standard most California colleges and universities are required by law to use in campus disciplinary proceedings involving sexual assault.

Including both of these definitions in the training helps students understand the difference between the affirmative consent standard in campus policies and criminal law definitions of consent to sexual activity that apply in a court of law. The training programs present both definitions to explain these different standards and put them in the proper context.

Providing legal definitions also helps schools comply with the Campus Save Act, which requires schools to inform their students of the definitions of stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault in the applicable jurisdiction. We maintain summaries of the relevant state statutes defining these terms for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and the applicable statutes are included in each school’s courses.

Schools also include their campus sexual misconduct policies in the course, which students must read and acknowledge before completing the course.

In addition, the course provides general guidelines to help students get and give consent. You can watch a video on consent from Think About It on Youtube here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laMtr-rUEmY

What if the discussion of consent is inconsistent with the schools’ policy?

Schools can customize the content of the course in order to fit their policy and campus culture.

All schools include their policy in the course, which students must read and acknowledge.

Does the course talk about how alcohol affects someone’s ability to give consent?

Yes it does.

This topic is important to discuss as is suggested both by research and guidance on Federal regulations.

For example, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights recommends in the Title IX FAQ  that training for students include information “on consent and the role drugs or alcohol can play in the ability to consent” (J-3).

Similarly, one of the primary conclusions of the Campus Sexual Assault Study completed in 2007 for the National Institute of Justice was to “[c]ombine sexual assault prevention education with alcohol and drug education programming” (xviii).

As indicated in the video linked to above, an individual who is incapacitated cannot give consent. This reflects most schools’ policies, many states’ laws, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights definition of sexual violence in their Title IX FAQ: ” Sexual violence, as that term is used in this document and prior OCR guidance, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the student’s age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent)” (emphasis added A-1).

(For more information see our blog post on the topic here.)

Does the course say if a man and woman are both drunk and have sex then the man is always to blame?

No it does not. And it is disturbing that someone could draw this conclusion from the course.

In the article, a student who took the course said the following: “In one scenario both the man and the woman were drunk but the video still blames the male for the assault. I found that a little confusing,”

It is deeply concerning that the student found this portion of the course confusing.

Here is a summary of the scenario the student is most likely referencing.

A man and a woman have been drinking together. Later they start kissing. The woman decides to stop and pushes the man away. She tells the man that she wants to go home because she is feeling sick from the alcohol she drank. The man convinces her to stay, she passes out, and the man then has sex with her while she is unconscious. This is rape. The woman is incapacitated from alcohol and is unconscious when the man has sex with her.

The reason the man is to blame is because he rapes her while she is unconscious. It does not matter that he has also been drinking. As mentioned in the course “being drunk doesn’t release anyone from legal or student conduct responsibility.”

Conclusion

We believe preventing sexual violence is an important and complex issue, and welcome feedback and suggestions.

To learn about the program used at USC and over 500 colleges and universities across the country click here and here.

If you have any questions please contact us at talkaboutit@campusclarity.com

If you are a member of the press, please contact us at press@lawroom.com

 

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