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Author: CampusClarity

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, September 4, 2015

In this weeks roundup: studies explore the smoking habits of college students, Harvard attempts to create a more inclusive campus for trans* students, and Michigan State University was found to have violated Title IX.

College Students Smoke More Marijuana than Cigarettes

While cigarette use amongst college students is declining, marijuana use is on the rise. It has, for the first time, surpassed tobacco as the primary substance to smoke for college students. University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research compiled survey data showing that around 5% of students say they smoke tobacco heavily, whereas 6% smoke marijuana heavily. The Associated Press reports that “the percentage of daily pot users… was the highest ever recorded… [and] twenty-one percent of college students said they had used marijuana at least once during the previous month, and 34% said they had used it in the past year.” There have been many studies lately about the impacts of marijuana use, exploring everything from its correlation with depression to its impact on brain size and shape. Some studies have designated marijuana as a treatment option for anxiety and other mental health concerns. However, marijuana isn’t the only treatment for anxiety and depression students have been seeking in recent years – students are utilizing campus mental health services on campus more than ever.

Harvard Allows Students to Pick Gender Pronoun

At Harvard, students will now be able to write in their preferred gender pronoun when they register for classes, according to The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. Harvard hopes that this option will help students feel more comfortable with their gender identity and prevent professors from misgendering students in the classroom or in communications. Van Bailey, the director of Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life, explained to the Boston Globe, “With this change we are being proactive about allowing students to control how they are addressed or seen based on how they identify or see themselves…We hope this creates classroom spaces that foster inclusion and equity for all students.” Harvard will still classify all students as male or female, regardless of the pronoun they choose.

OCR Completes Michigan State Investigation

On September 1, 2015, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released its letter of findings, concluding that Michigan State University violated Title IX because it failed to:

  • promptly respond to sexual harassment complaints, which caused or contributed to a sexually hostile environment for students and staff on campus
  • comply with Title IX requirements for informing students and staff about grievance procedures, what constitutes sexual harassment, and how to contact its Title IX coordinator

For example, the results of a survey of MSU freshman and transfer students conducted in Spring 2014 found: “Only 7.4% of students were able to correctly identify the name of the University’s Title IX Coordinator. In contrast, 71.5% of the students surveyed correctly identified the University’s head basketball coach.”

The MSU Resolution Agreement requires mandatory training for students on how to identify and report sexual harassment and sexual assault, available student resources, as well as the University’s grievance procedures and possible sanctions for conduct violations. The MSU letter of findings also identified best practices, which include:

  • maintaining documentation of investigation and grievance proceedings
  • determining whether harassment occurred or whether conduct was welcome based on the totality of the circumstances
  • taking prompt interim measures to protect the complainant as soon as the school has notice of a harassment allegation
  • making sure that the school community is aware of what type of conduct constitute sexual harassment, including sexual violence
  • not allowing mediation of sexual assault complaints or the parties to personally cross-examine each other during hearings
  • not allowing those handling grievance procedures to have a real or perceived conflict of interest

Meanwhile, 130 schools are currently under investigation by the OCR and the number continues to grow. Read our discussion of the University of Montana’s Resolution Agreement and our discussion of standards of proof in campus hearings based on that Resolution Agreement.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 28, 2015

In this week’s roundup: double standards for sexual activity may begin as early as middle school, the University of Michigan tries out a new policy to discourage underage drinking, and a new study reveals that students are most likely to try certain drugs at specific times during the year.

Double Standard for Early Adolescent Sexual Activity

A team of sociologists and researches has released a new study showing that adolescent girls and boys – as early as the 6th grade – experience the social impacts of sexual activity differently.  “In our sample of early adolescents, girls’ friendship networks shrink significantly after they have sex, whereas boys’ friendship networks expand significantly,” said Derek A. Kreager, the lead researcher and a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University. The study found that early adolescent girls gain friends for making out without having sex, whereas boys of the same age lose friends for making out without having sex, enforcing a double standard about sexual freedom and promiscuity at a very early age. The researchers posit that early social norming around gender and sexual activity will have a lasting impact on “later sexual adjustment.” The paper, “The Double Standard at Sexual Debut: Gender, Sexual Behavior and Early Adolescent Peer Acceptance,” was presented Tuesday at the American Sociological Association’s 110th Annual Meeting.

University of Michigan Notifies Parents About Conduct Violations 

The University of Michigan announced that they will be going an unconventional route to discourage underage drinking this year. When students repeatedly violate alcohol and other drug (AOTD) policies, their parents will be notified of their behavior.  This is legal under FERPA Section 952, which allows – but not requires – schools to contact parents if their child is under 21 and committing AOTD violations. “We will notify parents of first-year students when a student under the age of 21 has had a second alcohol or drug violation or when a first-year student has committed a violation accompanied by other serious behavior such as needing medical attention, significant property damage or driving under the influence,” E. Royster Harper, Michigan’s Vice President for Student Life, wrote in a campus-wide email. This initiative is being promoted as a harm-reduction strategy for student safety.  Official communication from the University has not addressed any potential concerns, discrepancies, or downfalls to this policy. However, commentors on the article have brought up that AOTD legal violations seem to be taken seriously for a school who is under Title IX investigation for its mishandling of a sexual assault committed by a star athlete.

Study finds students start taking painkillers in winter, start drinking alcohol and smoking pot in the summer

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released a new study on Thursday that looks at the months when college students are most likely to experiment with new drugs. The study is the first of its kind, breaking down first time use by month for various substances, including alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, “study drugs,” prescription painkillers, and cocaine. First time use of alcohol, for instance, peaks in June, July, September, and December, according to the report. Similarly, college students tend to use marijuana for the first time in June and July. First time non-medical use of prescription painkillers, on the other hand, peaks in December. The study is based on data collected between 2002 and 2013 from The National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The information can help administrators target monthly programming to address the substances students are most likely to experiment with. Read the full study.

 

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A Parent’s Perspective on Campus Sexual Assault
Posted by On Monday, August 24, 2015

This piece is a guest post by Sheri Heitker Dixon, the founder of Keep Her Safe, an organization that helps parents and prospective students assess an institution’s attitudes and programs aimed at preventing sexual violence: “Our strategy is to make ‘safe from sexual assault’ a significant college selection criterion for parents and students, just like location, curriculum, cost, and other considerations.” Following on our recent webinar on involving parents in campus prevention efforts and Dr. Novak’s follow up post, “Why Parents Matter,” Heitker Dixon offers a parent’s perspective on what she is looking for in a school and what she would like to hear from campus leaders.

A Huffington Post headline forced me to think differently about sending my daughter to college. In February 2014, the college search was just beginning to show up on our radar. Most of the talk about college came from her high school guidance counselor and teachers with a focus on grades and encouragement to be involved in activities. We had talked casually about where she might go. A close friend promoted his alma mater, Duke. Her Florida Prepaid Tuition account assured a public Florida school would be completely paid for. There was the allure of urban schools in Boston and New York. We talked about her interests: neuroscience and theater. Even as a high school freshman, she was adamant that her hometown schools were not under consideration.

There are lots of questions to explore when making this decision. The question I wasn’t prepared for was the one asked in that Huffington Post headline: Why Are So Many Boys Leaving High School Thinking Rape Is Funny? The headline was jarring enough but the content of the article was horrifying to this mother of a teenage girl. The frequently cited, “1 in 5 college women will be assaulted” statistic was accompanied by a litany of incidents which were deeply misogynistic and dehumanizing in their objectification of female students.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of sending my daughter into this environment. I worried some of these boys were already in her circle. While the issue of campus sexual assault gained much traction with the White House Task Force, Congress, student groups and national sexual assault organizations creating solutions and demanding change, I couldn’t find support for parents. All the groups indicated that parents need to be involved but there was no vehicle to support that.

So I created my own protocol and founded Keep Her Safe to mobilize parents to press college and university administrations to make their campuses safe from sexual assault. Our family is looking at one of our largest purchases ever with a 4-year degree ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. I insist that my daughter’s safety be offered as part of the college package. Other parents are joining me in leveraging our purchasing power by using the Keep Her Safe Parent Toolkit to guide us through the process of assessing a school and then communicating to its administration that safe from sexual assault is a major selection criterion we are considering when choosing a school with our children.

Over the past couple of years this issue is gaining momentum, and rarely a day passes without some piece of campus sexual assault news. Much of the emphasis is on how schools handle sexual assault complaints. But as a parent, I’m much more concerned about what is being done to prevent sexual violence on campus. If my daughter is filing a complaint with a Title IX coordinator, that is a massive failure on the part of her school.

Of course, it’s important that complaints are handled effectively, perpetrators are punished, and victims services are available. But, media reports make clear that dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault is messy and difficult so it makes sense to devote resources to prevention.

I and the parents I work with want an environment where sexual assault is prevented. We also want to know administrators take our concerns seriously. I recently, have been heartened that some administrators are working to involve parents in prevention efforts. I attended the Campus Clarity webinar “Involving Parents in Sexual Assault Prevention” and read the follow-up article by Dr. Peter Novak “Why Parents Matter: New Partners in Sexual Assault Prevention.” The discussion included research to bolster the impact parents can have and provided ideas for getting them involved.

Just as the administrations are looking for parents to exert their influence on students, we are looking to the colleges and universities where we send our children to maximize their resources. The schools are uniquely poised to address this issue with education and training. We are looking for programs that:

  • Effectively conduct bystander training using processes with research based efficacy
  • Deliver the training in a variety of ways that may include combinations of online training, games and videos
  • Reinforce teachings with in-person sessions
  • Make training mandatory to all students
  • Discuss alcohol and drug use
  • Educate about affirmative consent
  • Deliver ongoing training throughout the year and to all levels
  • Have specific programs targeting the groups which are disproportionately involved in incidents of sexual violence—fraternities and athletes

Almost daily, postcards with photos of gorgeous campuses and happy, engaged students arrive for my daughter. She is getting excited. I’m feeling dread wondering about the dark side of the beautiful buildings and lush landscaping.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 21, 2015

In this week’s roundup, confusion and guidance around confidentiality and the University of Texas system launches a study of campus sexual assault across all 13 of its campues.

Department of Education Seeks Input on Protecting Student’s Medical Records

On Tuesday, August 18th, The Department of Education’s (ED) Chief Privacy Officer, Kathleen Styles, requested input from the higher education community on protecting student medical records. The request, which was published on “Homeroom,” the ED’s official blog, accompanied a draft Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) addressing an exception under FERPA that allows a school to access a student’s medical records without consent if there is litigation between the student and the school.

The draft guidance follows a controversial incident earlier this year: after a student sued her university for allegedly mishandling her report of being raped, the university gave her therapy records to its attorneys to help defend itself against her lawsuit. One commentator argued the university’s decision — and the FERPA exception that allowed them to make it — left students “stuck between unaffordable therapy in a safe space and free therapy provided by an institution they are unsure they can trust.” The draft DCL offers guidance for these situations,

…without a court order or written consent, institutions that are involved in litigation with a student should not share student medical records with the institution’s attorneys or courts unless the litigation in question relates directly to the medical treatment itself or the payment for that treatment, and even then disclose only those records that are relevant and necessary to the litigation.

Public input is welcomed until October 2nd, and anyone interested can email comments to FERPA.Comments@ed.gov.

Controversial & Confidential Advisers

What’s controversial about confidential advisers? According to some experts, advocates employed by a college may have a conflict of interest when counseling alleged victims, rendering them unable to give students unbiased support. And without the protection of a legal privilege, advisers could be subpoenaed as part of a criminal investigation or by lawyers of accused students to disclose their communications with the alleged victim. Or, when helping a student move to a new dorm, information could be given to an employee who is required to report it to the Title IX coordinator. United Educators’ general counsel says simply hiring an adviser for every campus “is likely to cause more confusion and conflicts.”

However, as the White House Task Force Report pointed out, victims and survivors of sexual violence are more likely to seek help, rather than stay silent, if they have a place to go for confidential advice and support. The University of California has at least one adviser on each of its ten campuses. In fact, the UC Santa Barbara campus has five staff members to support victims through a campus or criminal investigation, or accommodations in academic and living situations, and the number of students seeking services from its confidential-advising program tripled after they increased the number of advisers.

California’s “Yes Means Yes” law requires campuses to have a confidential advising office for survivors. New York’s “Enough is Enough” law and the Campus Accountability and Safety Act now pending in the U.S. Senate both require confidential advisers on every college campus. Given the positive impact that a confidential adviser has on survivor reporting and recovery, it is likely we will see legislative action to protect advocate confidentiality.

Sexual Assault Climate Assessment at University of Texas

The University of Texas (UT) is undertaking a $1.7 million study of campus sexual assault across all 13 of its campuses.  Led by William McRaven, the chancellor of the UT system, the project is expected to take multiple years and will include an online student questionnaire, faculty and staff focus groups, and longitudinal studies of student experiences. This study is one of many sexual assault Campus Climate Survey projects sweeping the nation’s higher education institutions.

McRaven, who has been in his current role since January, is comparing his experience working with UT to his previous extensive experience with the military. McRaven is a retired four-star Navy admiral and a long-time Navy SEAL.  He is most known for his involvement in the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. While in the Navy, McRaven says that he knew sexual assault was a problem, but until he conducted a survey of personnel, the extent and breadth of the problem were unknown. “Frankly, I was stunned by the results,” he said. “The problem was a lot more entrenched, and a lot broader, than I thought it was.”

This experience has helped him realize that “I don’t have enough data just yet” to understand how big the sexual assault problem is in the UT system. This project will happen in conjunction with the UT-Austin campus taking part in the AAU survey, for which aggregate results are expected to be published this Fall.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 7, 2015

In this week’s roundup —  the Department of Justice launches a new website to help schools prevent sexual violence, Netflix makes a big announcement that may have impact other employers, and an interview with a professor who studies how roommates influence each other.

DOJ Launches Website

The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women launched its new website changingourcampus.org, which Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the OVW said provides “access to cutting-edge tools, including sample policies, protocols, and best practices, that can be adapted and replicated on colleges and universities across the country.” Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:

  • Links to U.S. Department of Education guidance documents, OCR Title IX Resolutions, the VAWA regulations, and FERPA information in one place
  • Links to national resources, recent research and publications on preventing and responding to sexual violence
  • Online prevention efforts and ideas, including CampusClarity
  • Resources for stakeholders, including links to helpful information for organizing and maintaining an effective conduct and disciplinary process
  • Links to Victim Services/Advocates, including a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resource that helps find health care and mental health facilities in your community

Netflix Offers Unlimited Maternal/Paternal Leave

In a momentous move by Netflix, the world’s leading internet subscription service for watching movies and television shows, the company has decided to change its maternity/paternity leave policies. Effective immediately, new moms and dads, from either childbirth or adoption, will have the ability to take as much paid time off as needed within the first year of parenthood. The press release goes on to state that, “We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances. Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed.”  This is an especially impressive move due to the current federal regulations around maternity leave.  The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 only mandates that new mothers (who work in a company of 50+ people, have worked there for 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours over the last year) receive a minimum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  With the current state of maternity/paternity leave being abysmal, Netflix is trailblazing an employee-centered approach that allows for empowerment and self-accountability.  The Netflix Chief Talent Officer, Tawni Cranz, believes that this will lead to increased focus and dedication of employees.

How Colleges Assign Roommates, and Why It Matters [Gated]

As students start arriving on campuses across the country, many will be meeting the people they will be living with for the next year — for the first time. In this article, The Chronicle‘s Beckie Supiano interviews Bruce Sacerdote, who studies the effects roommates have on each other. Professor Sacerdote claims that more and more schools are randomly assigning roommates to each other. This trend is a good thing, he thinks. Randomization, according Sacerdote, “stimulates cross-geographic, cross-race, cross-cultural interaction.” Basically, Sacerdote’s research indicates that roommates have little effect on GPA, but do affect students’ drinking and social behavior. Interestingly, Professor Sacerdote also claims roommates influence job choice: “so if you happen to get someone who’s interested in finance, it makes you significantly more likely to pursue that both in internships and as a career.” No matter how your campus assigns roommates, the friendships and acquaintances your first-years make this fall will impact them for the rest of their lives.

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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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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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A White House Call to Action
Posted by On Friday, January 31, 2014

In an unprecedented move, President Obama added his presidential powers to the pressure building on colleges and universities to teach students, staff, and faculty how to prevent and respond to rape and sexual assault. 

What type of education program is required? The White House is working on providing guidance on this question. On January 22nd, President Obama announced that he had created a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to provide schools with best practices and step up enforcement of federal laws requiring colleges to address the problem of campus sexual assault.

Adding to the urgency, the Task Force must deliver to the President by April 22, 2014:

  • examples of prevention programs, and training and orientation modules for students, staff, and faculty, as well as policies and procedures for responding to sexual assault complaints
  • recommendations for measuring institutions’ prevention and response efforts and making this information available to the public
  • proposals for maximizing the government’s enforcement activities

As soon as these examples, recommendations, and proposals are available we will have a better idea of what a compliant education program looks like. Going forward, the Task Force is required to submit annual reports to the President regarding implementation of its recommendations.

On the same day as the White House formed the Task Force, the President’s Council on Women and Girls presented its report, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.”  This report focuses on the Administration’s “major effort to better enforce” federal laws that require institutions of higher education to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault. 

As the report points out, both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice are charged with enforcing these laws, including the Campus SaVE Act which requires colleges and universities to provide prevention education programs for students and employees on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

Currently, the Department of Education is conducting negotiated rulemaking proceedings to draft regulations implementing the specific education requirements of the Campus SaVE Act. Final regulations are expected to be issued by November 2014.

In the meantime, when the Campus SaVE Act became effective on October 1, 2013, the ED said: “we expect institutions to make a good faith effort to comply with the statutory requirements in accordance with the statutory effective date.” While we wait for the final regulations, we’ll look for the Task Force report to provide further guidance on what constitutes a good faith effort.

* All institutions of higher education that receive federal funds are covered by Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act. These institutions include colleges, universities, community colleges, graduate and professional schools, for-profit schools, trade schools, and career and technical schools.

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Think About It Wins Gold NASPA Excellence Award
Posted by On Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Think About It, CampusClarity’s online substance abuse and sexual violence training program for colleges and universities, has won the 2014 Gold NASPA Excellence Award for Violence Education and Prevention.
 
NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, is the leading association of student affairs professionals in the United States. The NASPA Excellence Awards are presented annually in recognition of NASPA members who are “transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services, and effective administration.”
 
The awards, which are presented in Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories, recognize excellence in a variety of fields related to student affairs and higher education. Winners are determined by a panel of veteran student affairs professionals, who judge each entry by criteria that include:
 

  • Impact on student learning
  • Success in addressing student needs
  • Use of innovative and creative methods, practices, or activities
  • Application of available or emerging theoretical models and practical research

 
Think About It is a collaboration between CampusClarity and the University of San Francisco’s Division of Student Life. In addition to training students to confront and prevent serious campus problems such as sexual violence and substance abuse, the program helps schools comply with the training requirements of the Campus SaVE Act and Title IX, while also providing administrators important insights into the culture of their campus and student body.
 
More than thirty-five colleges and universities use Think About It to train their students.

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The Intoxicating Camera
Posted by On Friday, January 17, 2014

It’s coming to your campus.

I’m Shmacked, founded by Arya Toufanian and Jeffrey Ray, two twenty-something aspiring filmmakers, turns college campuses into music videos, although perhaps not in the way administrators or parents might hope. In between jump cuts to students crowd surfing and shaky cam shots of students grinding on the dance floor, the videos might showcase a few noticeable campus buildings or cheering crowds at sports games. Academics and classrooms, of course, are noticeably absent. (Though the founders claim they’d like to show them too.) 

They insist they’re merely there to document the college scene and to help prospective students learn about colleges by showcasing the social life. According to Toufanian, “Kids don’t want to read anymore…Seeing a video is a much more fun way to learn about a school.”

Of course their motto is “I’m Shmacked: It’s a movement,” which makes it sound less like a documentary project and more like…well, a movement.

The problem is the filmmakers host the parties they claim to document. Indeed, the very name I’m Shmacked suggests their focus. It’s not something you say after a hard test. It’s something you say after a few shots of hard liquor. At the bottom of their videos, the company claims that “no alcohol or illegal substance is used during filming, just props.” Perhaps the camera itself acts as a kind of intoxicant.

Indeed, students eagerly perform for the camera. The camera is not an objective lens onto campus life, but an invitation to perform. Much as alcohol can be used as a kind of permission slip to misbehave, so can the camera and the thrill of being on screen. Perhaps students are compelled by some strange sense of school spirit that measures a university’s success in cups of beer. One of the parties, held at University of Delaware, devolved into what police described as a near riot.

Co-founder Arya Toufanian admitted as much in an interview, saying, “I have cameras and a budget now, and a bunch of college kids who will do anything to be on camera.”.

Indeed, USA Today quotes one student who claims that I’m Shmacked gives students the ability to “express themselves” differently.

Other students are sensitive to the ways video and social media coax students into performing: “I’m worried that filming it will just exacerbate (students’) dangerous behavior so they look ‘cooler’ on camera,” said one student in the same USA Today news report.

Students are also divided on how appearing in one of these videos might affect their professional lives. One student thought it unlikely that he could be identified in the video:  “If my future employers were to watch the video,” he said, “I doubt the likelihood of them recognizing me.”

Meanwhile, another student told the New York Times, “To do this on a video that can go viral, you must have a train-wreck mentality.”

At the same time, we can’t completely discount the co-founders claim. I’m Shmacked does document something, though it may not be an entirely accurate reflection of campus life. It seems to open a view onto students’  attitudes regarding campus partying and their motives to party in the first place.

I’m Shmacked offers students a chance to be seen and to “represent” their school. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the videos often include shots of sporting events and/or shots of campus gear. The parties themselves are a kind of performance and competition. In several of the videos students proclaim their school is the “best.” Undoubtedly a sense of competition fuels students to act crazier.

But then again, maybe we shouldn’t get so worked up. Much of the actual footage is rather tame. Students screaming, dancing, or crowd surfing are pretty typical. A lot of the motion and action is in the editing.

Perhaps, then, I’m Shmacked offers campuses a way into a more nuanced discussion with their students about why they party. Why is this the story so many students seem to want tell about college? And if partying is about letting loose and forgetting yourself, why would anyone perform or show off for a camera?

In fact, I’m Shmacked has itself tried to open conversations on campus by adding short interviews with students about topics like “one night stands or relationships” or “drunk versus sober.”

We don’t have answers, but your students might. 

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