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Author: JP Hehmeyer

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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3 Predictions for Data Security and Higher Ed in 2016
Posted by On Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In tomorrow’s college classroom, data security training will sit front and center.

Technology is reinventing education, and schools are producing unprecedented amounts of data to teach and manage their students, staff, and faculty. Technology is already helping schools control costs, improve student retention, and personalize learning.

We can expect these trends to continue, especially as flipped classrooms and blended and online learning continue their rapid spread. Over 70% of academic leaders reported that online learning is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy, according to the Babson Survey Research Group. And though the hype around MOOCs (massive open online courses) has faded, they’re more popular than ever.

Further developments are on the horizon, including learning analytics, adaptive learning, and location intelligence.

These technologies are reshaping the learning and teaching process. But they also make colleges and universities attractive targets for hackers and make data breaches a bigger danger than ever.

Colleges and universities are in an unusual position when it comes to data security. Not only are they regulated by laws like FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), but they must also find a way to balance their commitment to academic freedom with the need to protect their data.

As David J. Shaw, the chief information security officer at Purdue University, told The New York Times, “A university environment is very different from a corporation or a government agency, because of the kind of openness and free flow of information you’re trying to promote.”

(Learn about higher education’s unique data security challenges in our data security white paper.)

Higher education leaders are certainly aware of the data security challenges they face. The Center for Digital Education recently surveyed higher education leaders about data security:

  • 72% think data breaches are one of their greatest concerns
  • 73% say cybersecurity is a high or very high priority among their other technology priorities
  • 70% expect spam and phishing to be a major threat in the next 12 months

Thinking about the growing role of technology (and data) in the classroom, here are three data security issues in higher education we expect to trend in 2016.

1.) More Data Will Mean More Problems

With new technologies come new concerns — especially around privacy and data security. Many emerging technologies rely on big data — so much data that Kathleen Styles, the Education Department’s chief privacy officer, recently called colleges and universities, “Data Factories.”

As Styles explains in a blog post on privacy and new uses of data, “The combination of new technologies and new uses of data create today’s cutting-edge privacy issues, including ‘Big Data,’ matching with wage data, data sharing in general, the use of analytics, cloud computing, MOOCs, and school use of web engagement tools.”

Higher education institutions create and consume a particularly broad range of information from educational, employment, and medical records to intellectual property, research data, and sensitive financial information.

Besides the privacy issues, all these data make colleges and universities attractive targets to hackers, hacktivists, and even state-sponsored cyberespionage.

The Ponemon Institute, which conducts independent research on data security, estimates that cybercrime costs the education industry an average of $3.89 million annually. Between 2010 and 2015, a total of 314 data breaches occurred at US educational institutions, exposing 7,852,750 records. In 2014 the education industry experienced 10% of total data breaches in the US, according to Symantec.

Privacy concerns around data collection forced one educational technology company to shut its doors in 2014, and in 2015 we saw a major university allegedly targeted by nation-state hackers for its research. We can expect more stories like these in 2016.

2.) BYOD Will Become Bring Your Own Everything

To promote the free flow of information, college and university networks often must accommodate numerous private devices — think of all the new students arriving each year with their smart phones, laptops, tablets, etc.

A survey conducted by Bradford Networks found that 85% of educational institutions have some form of BYOD policy (bring your own device). And these aren’t just for personal use: 52% of respondents said devices are integrated into the classroom experience.

Over 75% of surveyed institutions allowed faculty to use personal devices to access the school network, 72% allowed students, and 57.5% allowed all other staff and contractors to do the same.

The use of personal devices is so ubiquitous on campuses that one expert has suggested a new acronym: BYOE or Bring Your Own Everything.

And it looks like the current flood of devices is only priming the pump.

In its 2015 Horizon Report, The New Media Consortium (NMC), in collaboration with EDUCASE Learning Initiative, predicts schools will encourage more students to bring their own mobile devices into the classroom.

That’s just the near term! NMC expects wearable technologies to be classroom staples within the next two to three years and the internet of things to arrive in classrooms in the next four to five years.

Each device presents a potential security risk to an institution, a way for data to leak out or an avenue for malware to sneak in. Unsurprisingly, colleges and universities’ security performance drops during the academic school year with the influx of new students and their new devices.

It will be interesting to see how schools balance their desire to promote learning and the exchange of information with the need to secure their networks. One thing is certain: BYOE will be a challenge in 2016.

3.) IT Will Be Treated as a Behavioral Science

Most higher education leaders are confident in their security measures. What they report as their number one pain point is user adherence to policies.

In other words, users — not the technology — are the issue.

This situation isn’t unique to higher education. As we are fond of quoting, according to Marc Van Zadelhoff, the VP of IBM Security, 95% of data breaches or cyberattacks involve “mistakes by those with access to a company’s systems.”

But higher education’s unique balancing act of access and security can make technological solutions to data security particularly difficult to implement, forcing institutions to rely even more heavily on the good sense and cyber-hygiene habits of their employees and students.

Fortunately, schools can address employee habits and practices through training. These kinds of solutions may actually be well adapted to the higher education environment, since they can promote users’ sense of responsibility and autonomy. Online data security training, for instance, can help schools teach employees best practices while still respecting the free flow of information.

The human element in data security gained some prominence this year when Cisco released a new security manifesto. One of the manifesto’s core principles is that “security must be viewed as a ‘people problem’.”

The manifesto explains, “A technology-centric approach to security does not improve security; in fact, it exacerbates it. Technologies are merely tools that can enhance the ability of people to secure their environment. Security teams need to educate users…People, processes, and technology, together, must for the defense against today’s threats.” (See our post on CTOs and data security training for more.)

Or as Werner Boeing, the CIO of Roche Diagnostics, puts it, “People believe that IT is about technology, but it’s really a behavioral science — understanding the behaviors of your company’s staff, leaders, and customers — and facilitating the adoption of a new vision.”

In 2016, expect to see more discussion of data security as a people problem and the role of cybersecurity training as an essential complement to technological solutions.

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Five Resources for Getting to Know Your Students
Posted by On Thursday, September 3, 2015

It is useful to understand the attitudes and behaviors of today’s young adults to prepare your campus for the academic year. Here are a few things we learned from recent surveys and studies about today’s students and five resources to help you learn more about your students.

The good news is that recent surveys suggest that today’s students are in many ways more responsible than those in the past. Monitoring the Future (MTF), a national survey of secondary and post-secondary students’ attitudes and behaviors, found that in 2014 both alcohol and cigarette use among teens were at their lowest points since the survey began in 1975.

Though in many ways young adults are drinking more responsibly, they are still drinking: According to MTF, in 2014 “27% of 8th graders, 49% of 10th graders, 66% of 12th graders, 79% of college students” tried alcohol.

And students do still have some unhealthy habits. In 2014, about 1 in 5 of high-school seniors reported binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row) in the past two weeks. We also know that while college-bound seniors report binging less than their non-college bound peers, they overtake their peers once they’re in college.

The data on drug use is less clear cut than the data on drinking. In general, drug use among teens remains relatively stable with some small declines. Worth noting, however, are significant declines in the use of prescription narcotics like Vicodin, codeine, and OxyContin.

While the data on students’ drug and alcohol use is promising, there are some suggestions that college students’ mental health is declining.

According to the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), in 2014 college first-years reported the lowest emotional health since the survey began. 9.5% of students reported feeling frequently depressed. Directors of counseling centers are also reporting increases in anxiety disorders and crises requiring immediate response, according to the National Survey of College Counseling Centers.

The rise in self-reported mental health issues, however, may not be due to college students’ deteriorating mental health. At least some of the change may be related to increased awareness around mental health, which may be leading more students to reach out for help.

The Chronicle of Higher Education just released a series of articles covering the rise in self-reported mental health issues on college campuses. You can also read our discussion of the college mental health crisis here.

These national surveys, however, only show us one side of today’s undergraduate population. Here are some stories and websites that reveal other valuable aspects of students to help paint a broader picture.

What’s it like Being 18?

Ninna Gaensler-Debs of KALW, a Bay Area public radio, asked a group of high school seniors to tell her what it’s like being 18 today. The 2-3 minute vignettes span a variety of topics from battling depression to applying to college as an undocumented teen. This excellent series lets young adults speak for themselves.

‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors Know

This video and accompanying article explore ways to make LGBTQ students more welcome on campus and in the classroom. The Chronicle interviewed over a dozen students, who shared the challenges and safety issues they faced as LGBTQ students. The students talk about gender identity, pronouns, name changes, and housing concerns.

Helping Homeless Students

The Chronicle ran two articles on the plight of homeless students and how some colleges and universities are reaching out to them. The articles shed light on the struggles and challenges these students face trying to stay in school and the programs that have helped them. While there is little research on homeless students, students can identify as “unaccompanied homeless youth” on their federal financial aid forms. Nationwide, close to 60,000 students have chosen that designation, according to the Chronicle.

Beloit Mindset List

If you haven’t already seen it in a chain email or heard about in your president’s welcome address, you should definitely check out the Beloit College Mindset List. Released every year, this not-very-scientific list chronicles the popular culture of this year’s incoming class. Of particular note this year: “Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.”

Data from Campus Climate Surveys

More and more schools are administering climate surveys on their campuses to gauge the well-being and safety of their students. Many schools are also making the data from these surveys public. While the information is particular to the schools, it does provide one more glimpse into student life. We’ve written about getting started with climate surveys, and we’ve also provided a useful rundown of what experts are saying about campus climate surveys.

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Representing Sexual Orientation in Think About It
Posted by On Friday, August 21, 2015

Every year, Senator Al Franken introduces the “Student Non-Discrimination Act,” which would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. And every year, the act has been defeated.

“There remains no federal law that explicitly protects these students and provides them and their families recourse when they face bullying that limits their educational opportunities,” said Senator Franken, explaining the importance of the bill. “No student can achieve if he cannot feel safe at school. No student will excel if she spends each day in fear of just being herself.”

While Senator Franken’s law failed to pass this year (again), there are nonetheless promising signs that the federal government is taking sexual orientation discrimination seriously. According to recent Title IX guidance documents, schools should train students and employees about same-sex sexual violence. In their 2014 Title IX FAQ , the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) explains that “Title IX protects all students from sexual violence, regardless of the sex of the alleged perpetrator or complainant, including when they are members of the same sex” (B-2). Later in the document, the OCR specifies that training for both employees and students should include information on same-sex sexual violence (J-1 & J-4).

Similarly, as we wrote about here, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently evolved its position on sexual orientation, arguing that Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The EEOC’s ruling could influence Title IX Cases as explained by Erin Buzuvis, a Professor of Law and co-founder of Title IX Blog:

“…even though it doesn’t govern the education context, the EEOC’s decision helps strengthen arguments by students or school employees who may have been excluded from participation, or fired, or denied admission, or harassed because of their sexual orientation, by giving courts and attorneys a road map of persuasive reasoning to follow.”

At CampusClarity, we believe it is important to create an inclusive course that adequately addresses the challenges all students face, regardless of their sexual orientation. We also recognize that the opportunities for us to improve our coverage of this issues, and we welcome comments from students and other users of our courses.

As part of our commitment to inclusivity and to help schools comply with their Title IX requirements, Think About It includes specific situations and scenarios that revolve around characters’ identities as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer.

One of the central narratives of the course involves a gay man. Tom Batak is one of four main characters whom students follow throughout the course. His biography explains that he has yet to disclose his sexual orientation to his Filipino parents. As users continue to follow Tom’s story, they see him come out to his roommate as gay (Healthy Relationships > Time Bomb), and they consider questions around an unhealthy relationship Tom is involved in.

Throughout the course, users are challenged to think about issues around sexual orientation and gender norms, including interactive scenarios involving same-sex couples or someone insulting a person because of their sexual-orientation.

Even when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer identities aren’t directly discussed, the course remains inclusive of all sexual orientations. Examples of this can be found throughout the section of the course about hooking up as well as the dialogues around male sexual assault. Similarly, this inclusivity can be found through visual representations as well as text representations in places like the Dating After College video that shows a couple in which the sex of the partners is intentionally ambiguous.

We feel it is especially crucial for schools to address same-sex intimate partner and sexual violence because individuals in the LGBQ community face unique challenges when reporting. For instance, for individuals reporting same-sex sexual violence may mean outing themselves as either LGBQ or engaging in same-sex relations, whether they’re consensual or not.

Survivors can also be reluctant to report out of fear that their peer group will not believe them or will ostracize them. This problem is exacerbated for individuals in the LGBQ community, who may feel that the community they have found at college is the first one accepting of their identity. Losing that community would be devastating to those students, exactly at a time when the most need the support of friends.

Furthermore, as explained in a recent Huffington Post article, some survivors may fear “causing additional problems for their schools’ LGBT communities, many of which are already struggling to overcome discrimination and bias and which may be the only support networks available to some gay or trans survivors.

Same sex relationships (both sexual and romantic in nature) are not immune from violence.

As the school year begins, take a moment to assess the inclusivity of your school’s orientation programming and how it addresses same-sex sexual violence.

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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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[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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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Thursday, July 2, 2015

This week the Campus SaVE Act final regulations officially go into effect, the role of judges in campus hearings, and new research on bystander intervention.

The VAWA/Campus SaVE Act Final Regulations Go into Effect

Over two years ago, on March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Campus SaVE Act into law as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). The Campus SaVE Act increased the Annual Security Report crime reporting categories, and requires colleges and universities receiving federal funds to provide student and employee awareness training on campus sexual violence.
This week, VAWA’s final regulations went into effect after several months of negotiated rulemaking, and request for public comments . While the final regulations have only just gone into effect, colleges and universities have been expected to make good faith efforts to comply with these new requirements in the interim (). Compliance now requires schools to follow the letter and not just the spirit of the law. This Huffington Post article provides a convenient breakdown of what schools must do this year to comply with the regulations and a brief discussion of its significance. Also, see our Campus SaVE Act compliance checklist and rundown of the final regulations, or review our summary of additional requirements under new state legislation.

Should Judges Be Overseeing Campus Hearings?

More and more colleges and universities are turning to judges to oversee campus hearings, especially when they involve sexual assaults, according to this article at Inside Higher Ed. Supporters of the this development argue that judges can serve as impartial and qualified parties to hear these complicated cases. Critics suggest that using judges will make campus hearings more like a courtroom, something the Department of Education has been careful to avoid, since campus hearings provide students an alternative to the legal system. “We’re not in a court, we’re in a hearing about a school’s code, and I think there is a value to not making it like a courtroom,” explained Laura Dunn, the founder and director of a victims’ advocacy group. Another sign of the “professionalization” of campus hearings, according to the article, is the greater role lawyers are playing. Several states have passed or are considering legislation that would allow lawyers to more fully participate in campus proceedings. Despite the push towards greater professionalization, uncertainty still surrounds these developments. Peter Lake, a law professor at Stetson University, told Inside Higher Ed, “I think people are experimenting with a variety of different models, and there are some who think that working with highly professionalized external adjudicators is the right pathway, especially in complex or high-profile cases. It’s uncharted territory. We’re essentially creating a college court system.”

Bystander Intervention and Cyberbullying

According to a recent study, several factors influence a bystander’s willingness to respond to an incident of cyberbullying in an online forum: the forum’s level of anonymity, the bystander’s relationship to the victim, and the number of people participating. Reported by Inside Higher Ed, the study found that the bigger the group, the greater the anonymity, and the more distant the relationships between the participants, the less likely someone would respond to cyberbullying. “Once online identity is disconnected from offline identity, it can sometimes lead to antisocial online communication,” Nicholas Brody, one of the study’s authors, told Inside Higher Ed. The greater anonymity of online courses reduces participants’ feelings of personal responsibility for intervening. “It comes down to friendship and closeness,” Brody told Inside Higher Ed. “People are going to help out their friends.” Brody suggests that professors who are worried about cyberbullying in their online classes could organize smaller group work and interactions outside of the classroom to encourage students to build relationships with each other. As schools continue to develop their online course offerings, it will be interesting to see how they address sexual violence prevention in these settings.

 

 

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LawRoom Launches Intersections
Posted by On Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LawRoom is excited to announce the release of our new anti-harassment (AB 1825) training program: Intersections. Intersections invites organizations that fall under the AB 1825 requirements to create a workplace culture free of harassment and discrimination. Filled with engaging interactive exercises, the course teaches skills to identify, prevent, and report inappropriate and abusive conduct.

With tools to assign the course and track learners’ progress, Intersections enables administrators to meet training requirements easily and effectively.

The course includes the latest legal updates and a completely re-imagined learner experience.

Intersections course at a glance:

  • Completely redesigned look and feel
  • Expanded coverage to meet California’s new AB 2053 (prevention of abusive conduct) requirement
  • HTML5 platform
  • WCAG 2.0 Accessibility

    Putting Learners First

Case studyLawRoom’s team of instructional designers, writers, and artists has developed Intersections to deliver a flexible user-directed learning experience.

Following best-practices in e-learning and online training, Intersections teaches learners through a range of media-rich experiences. Compelling narratives, infographics, and immersive interactions make complicated legal concepts accessible and engaging. Real cases illustrate key legal principles, bringing the law alive and showing the real-world consequences of discriminatory conduct. Immersive interactions allow users to apply their knowledge in authentic situations, helping them develop useful skills.

Updates to the technology allowed our designers to create a more immersive learning experience. “The switch to HTML5 allowed us to design Intersections with interesting new interactions,” explains Jeremy Beckman, LawRoom’s Director of Design. “For the user, this means a greater emphasis on practicing how to apply what they learn in the real world.”

In-Depth Coverage Moves beyond Compliance

The name Intersections reflects the course’s exploration of how different forms of discrimination reinforce each other and how to create a positive company culture to counter those tendencies.

In addition to gender-based discrimination and harassment, Intersections covers discrimination based on other protected characteristics like race, age, and national origin.

Intersections also includes resources to help companies reach a standard higher than compliance. The course discusses important topics such as inclusive language in the workplace, bystander intervention, preventing abusive conduct, unconscious bias, and micro-aggressions.

Legal Updates

IntroPageAs of January 1, 2015, California employers must also include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the training and education they offer their supervisors. This new law, AB 2053, does not change California’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination rules. It only requires additional training.

LawRoom’s anti-harassment courses have always included training around abusive conduct. Keeping with AB 2053′s mandate, we have added an entire section on preventing and responding to abusive conduct. This section includes a definition of abusive conduct based on California’s new law, interactions to test learners’ understanding of abusive conduct, and practical tips for helping create a more supportive environment where abusive conduct is not tolerated. See our blog post for more details: Click here

 

Technological Upgrades

In addition to updating and refining our content, we have introduced important technological upgrades by moving our courses from Flash to HTML5. Intersections uses a standards-based HTML5 platform, improving accessibility and allowing us to make our courses compatible with mobile devices in the future.

“The technology changes in our new harassment course move us forward in several important ways,” says Eytan Klawer, Vice President of Product Development. “The HTML5 technology allows us to make the courses fully accessible, and, also allows us to move forward with our push to make the courses compatible with tablets. Of courses, the course looks great, and the video delivery takes advantage of browser capabilities to request video streams based on available resources.”

On-going Commitment

VisitMenuAt LawRoom we are committed to continually updating and improving our courses. Intersections is the latest in our series of award-winning anti-harassment trainings. For courses to be engaging, we know how important it is to keep our
content relevant and current.

In fact, California supervisors must train on anti-harassment every two years. To ensure that your supervisors don’t repeat the same training, we release a new version every other year.

2013′s releases, Lenses, won a Silver Stevie Award for best training site at the 11th annual American Business Awards. (Our course for students, Think About It, won gold.) Intersections continues this tradition of excellence, and we continue to innovate and develop our trainings to help define our industry’s standards.

 

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Hazing Prevention [Free Webinar]
Posted by On Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Thursday we will be hosting a webinar with Dr. Gentry McCreary (register here) at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET. Dr. McCreary is a well-known expert on hazing prevention and the CEO of Dyad Strategies. A scholar and practitioner, he brings a valuable blend of hands on work experience and rigorous research to the problem of hazing on college campuses. During this 45-minute webinar, Dr. McCreary will examine the psychology of hazing and strategies that institutional leaders can take to reduce the prevalence of hazing on campus.

Dr. McCreary will discuss why students engage in hazing practices, factors that contribute to or reduce campus hazing culture, and both direct and indirect intervention strategies aimed at addressing hazing at the individual, organizational, and community levels.

If you’re interested in joining the conversation, please register for the event (space is limited).

[UPDATE 8/28/2015] The webinar is now available online: Hazing Prevention Webinar.

The Problem

As several recent high-profile incidents have shown, hazing remains a widespread problem on campuses across the country. In one of the few national studies of hazing, professors Elizabeth Allan and Mary Madden found that over half of students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing, defined as “any activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses, or endangers them regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.”

While almost three-fourths of members of athletic teams or a social fraternity or sorority reported being hazed, a range of organizations and groups haze, according to Allan and Madden. For instance, 64% of students who participated in a club sport, 56% of students who participated in a performing arts organizations, and 28% of students who participated in an academic club experienced at least one hazing behavior. Nor is hazing a higher education phenomenon. Allan and Madden found that 47% of students reported experiencing hazing before ever getting to college.

Hazing encompasses a broad swath of harmful behaviors, including forcing pledges or initiates to participate in heavy drinking, sleep deprivation, public chanting or singing, and even physical abuse. Hazing can cause psychological or physical trauma with potentially fatal consequences.

Indeed, as the recent controversy over one group’s racist chant illustrate, hazing rituals can also perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes with consequences far beyond the organization itself.

Allan and Madden found, however, that “more students perceive positive rather than negative outcomes of hazing.” In fact, 90% of students who have been hazed don’t label it as such, and in 95% of cases where students recognized that they experienced hazing, they didn’t report.

While many students Allan and Madden interviewed justified hazing by arguing that it strengthened group unity, less than a third of students in their survey reported feeling more like a part of the group as a positive result of hazing, suggesting a disconnect between students’ perceptions of and their actual experiences with hazing.

These factors all contribute to a problematic hazing culture that has developed escalating concern among researchers and student affairs practitioners.

Cultures of Violence

Hazing does not exist in isolation. The cultures that allow hazing to continue (or even support it) may perpetuate other forms of violence on campuses. In fact, hazing does not hide in the shadows. A quarter of hazing behaviors occurred in “on-campus in a public space,” and a quarter of coaches or organization advisors knew their group was hazing, according to Allan and Madden’s research.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about a presentation at NASPA by Elizabeth Allan and Jane Stapleton. They argued that prevention efforts are too often siloed and that educators need to recognize the potential links between sexual violence and hazing (which often involves sexual violence).

Allan and Stapleton’s work demonstrates the importance of a multi-faceted approach to prevention that seeks to change the entire campus culture, and not just small enclaves. In short, by addressing hazing we can help address sexual violence as well.

Solutions

In the past, educators and prevention experts working with fraternities and sororities around hazing issues have stressed an organization’s values and getting members to act in accordance with those values or principles. Unfortunately, that approach hasn’t borne much fruit. But there are other promising directions.

Dr. McCreary’s research looks at the relationship between hazing prevention and moral development. McCreary points out that an organization’s overt or written values rarely exert a strong influence an individual’s decision to join an organization, which is more often based on the people in the organization or the tacit values expressed through the organization’s day-to-day behaviors. As McCreary writes of his own decision to join a fraternity: “I valued those people, but I didn’t join for values” (AFA Essentials 2014).

Among other approaches, McCreary commends empowering students to develop their own values instead of imposing external values onto them:

If we were truly concerned about student development, we would be creating cognitive dissonance in a way that would lead to a series of crossroads and, eventually, self-authorship. Conversations about how actions reflect values can and should be part of creating that dissonance, but when we impose new external formulas on our students, we are potentially retarding their growth and development. (AFA Essentials 2014)

In his presentation this Thursday, Dr. McCreary will go into greater depth on his research and best practices. We hope you will join us for this fascinating talk by Dr. McCreary. Register here.

[UPDATE 8/28/2015] The webinar is now available online: Hazing Prevention Webinar.

Citation:
McCreary, Gentry. (February 2014). “The Challenge of Values Congruence.” AFA Essentials.

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