Blog

Campus Culture

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.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

No Union for Northwestern Football Players
Posted by On Thursday, August 27, 2015

For a moment in college football history, student football players at Northwestern University (NU) were deemed “employees” with the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). But that moment is over — at least for now.

A regional director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) previously ruled that football players at NU were employees eligible to vote on whether to form a union. However, after the election but before the votes could be counted, the full NLRB in Washington D.C. impounded the ballots to consider an appeal by NU.

Rather than decide whether the football players are employees with union rights, the NLRB made an end-run around the question by declining to assert jurisdiction — a decision effectively denying the players the right to unionize under the NLRA. “Our decision,” the NLRB explained, “is primarily premised on a finding that … it would not promote stability in labor relations to assert jurisdiction.”

Observing that since the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sets and enforces common rules and standards of practice and competition over NU and other member teams, as well as individual players, “a symbiotic relationship” exists among them.

“As a result,” the Board reasoned, “labor issues directly involving only an individual team and its players would also affect the NCAA … and the other member institutions. Many terms applied to one team therefore would likely have ramifications for other teams. Consequently, it would be difficult to imagine any degree of stability in labor relations if we were to assert jurisdiction in this single-team case.”

Additionally, the Board noted that although NU is a private university covered by the NLRA, the Act does not cover state-run educational institutions, which means the NLRB cannot exercise jurisdictions over sports teams at these other NCAA-member schools.

“In particular, of the roughly 125 colleges and universities that participate in FBS [Division I Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA], all but 17 are state-run institutions. As a result, the Board cannot assert jurisdiction over the vast majority of FBS teams …. More starkly, Northwestern is the only private school that is a member of the Big Ten [Conference of the NCAA], and thus the Board cannot assert jurisdiction over any of Northwestern’s primary competitors.”

Still, the NLRB left the door open to revisit the issue for players’ groups larger than a single team, or under different circumstances: “[W]e are declining jurisdiction only in this case involving the football players at Northwestern University … The Board’s decision not to assert jurisdiction does not preclude a reconsideration of this issue in the future.” [Northwestern University v. College Athletes Players Association (2015) 362 NLRB No. 167]

For more information on students and work, see our earlier posts on unpaid internships and the Fox Searchlight lawsuit.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

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.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Campus Climate Surveys: Expert Opinions
Posted by On Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There is limited research out there on how best to develop and implement Sexual Assault Campus Climate Surveys because they’re a relatively new trend. “Experts” on campus climate surveys are a wide range of folks with related expertise, whether it be in government, in sexual assault prevention work, or as student affairs administrators.

On July 29th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee heard testimony around reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would amend the broader Higher Education Act, which Congress is working to reauthorize. It would require schools to gauge how often sexual assaults occur on their campuses and offer confidential advisers for victims.  Below are a few statements detailing how the amendment would impact climate surveys as well as the opinions of some thought-leaders in the field.

Statement of Senator Dean Heller

“Sexual assault is a crime that more often than not goes unreported, which is one of the reasons why data provided by our nation’s institutions simply do not reflect the prevalence of this crime. In fact, there are many colleges and universities that have reported zero incidences of sexual offenses to the federal government. I strongly believe one of the most important provisions of our bill is the campus climate survey. This survey will improve access to accurate, campus-level data by allowing students to anonymously share their experiences related to sexual assault. Under our bill, schools will give their students an anonymous, online survey to gauge the scope of sexual assault on campus and the effectiveness of current institutional policies on this issue. The Department of Education will be responsible for developing this survey, as well as picking up its cost. Schools just need to ensure an adequate, random, and representative sample of students take the survey. The survey results will be reported to Congress and published on the Department of Education’s website. Because this survey will be standardized, the American public will be able to compare the campus climate of all schools. As a father of four children, I wish I had access to this kind of information when my kids were preparing to attend college. And, now as a grandfather of two, my hope is that when they grow up and go off to school, our nation’s campuses will be safer than ever before. The campus climate survey will be a useful, educational tool for both students and parents, as well as an invaluable resource for institutions to help create or enhance efforts to prevent sexual assault, assist survivors of this crime, and improve campus safety overall.”

Testimony of Dana Bolger, co-founder of Know Your IX

“To counteract the potential negative reputational consequences of encouraging survivors to report, Congress should mandate that schools conduct campus climate surveys and publish their results publicly. This step would provide invaluable information to students and their families – including prospective students – and would increase incentives for schools to appropriately address violence. Schools should also be required to publish aggregate statistics on how investigations are being handled, which would provide greater insight into whether or not disciplinary proceedings are being handled promptly and equitably. This will help ensure that students, parents, and policymakers can evaluate and compare how each school responds to complaints of gender violence in practice, not just on paper.”

Testimony of Janet Napolitano, President of University of California

“CASA requires that the Department of Education develop, design and administer a standardized, online, annual survey of students regarding their experiences with sexual violence and harassment every two years. Having just conducted the largest university system climate survey of its kind in the nation, I have significant concerns about the usefulness of a single survey developed for all institutions given the broad diversity in higher education institutions across the nation and the student populations they serve. UC surveyed not only students, but also faculty and staff about their experiences and perceptions of the campus or workplace climate. We now have a rich baseline of data that campuses are analyzing to identify key areas of focus. Institutions should be allowed to develop and use their own climate surveys, as long as they meet criteria and standards defined by the Department of Education and are developed in consultation with stakeholders. Further, I believe that it is inappropriate for the legislation to place the responsibility on the university for ensuring that an adequate, random, and representative sample size of students enrolled at the institution completes the survey. This requirement could compromise the perceived anonymity of the survey and would be especially challenging if the survey would be administered by the Department of Education and not the institutions.”

There are many mixed thoughts around the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act: Combating Campus Sexual Assault.  Much of this disagreement focuses around the inclusion of mandatory, government-created campus climate surveys.  In April of last year, the Huffington Post published an article detailing some of the differing views about this component of the legislation. (For more information on CASA read our past coverage.)

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Campus Climate Surveys: Published Data & Results
Posted by On Thursday, August 6, 2015

As the desire for Sexual Assault Climate Surveys builds momentum on college campuses, important information can be gathered from schools who have already implemented surveys. Our first post on climate surveys last week described the purpose of climate surveys and some initial resources to consider if you’re looking to implement a survey on your campus.

Barnard College (Barnard), University of Chicago (UChicago), University of Michigan (Michigan), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) have all published results from campus climate surveys they’ve implemented on their campuses in the last few years. All of the schools except for Michigan sent out a survey to all students on their campus. and the response rates ranged from 28% to 35%.  Michigan sent out their survey to a random representative sample of 3,000 students and received a response rate of 67%. Each school had a higher response rate for self-identified females than males by 9-11%.

Below are a few summarized take-aways from the reports of these five schools.

  • Over 80% of women report hearing sexist jokes or remarks since being in college.
  • Of those who have been sexually assaulted, anywhere from 45-65% say that they told someone about the experience, however only 3-5% officially reported the assault.
  • Anywhere from 8-10% of women report experiencing non-consensual sexual penetration since being in college.
  • Over 60% of students report having a friend who has experienced sexual assault.

In April, the Association of American Universities partnered with Westat to develop a sexual assault climate survey for 28 (included Dartmouth, a non-AAU member) of its member universities to implement on their campuses. The same survey will be used for all 28 campuses, and the AAU has committed to publishing aggregate data across all survey users. A results comparison just from Barnard, UChicago, Michigan, MIT, and UNR shows that there will likely be similar outcomes across campuses, despite unique campus demographics. These consistencies lead to the conclusion that sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic rather than many isolated incidents. Hopefully the new survey data will propel educators, policy-makers, parents, and other stakeholders into action to create societal change around the climate of sexual assault both on and off college campuses.

Our third post in the Campus Climate Surveys series will come out next week, detailing what research and experts are saying about the importance and potential impact of these surveys.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

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.”

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

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

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

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

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

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

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

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

Red Converse

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

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

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

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

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

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Trigger Warnings** and Academic Freedom
Posted by On Friday, July 10, 2015

hands holding butterfly

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently issued a statement that trigger warnings in course syllabi are a threat to academic freedom. The statement comes from the subcommittee of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and was approved by the larger committee. Central to the committee’s finding was the expansion of the original practice, intended for those who have experienced a sexual assault, to include a broader range of issues such as racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of oppression like colonialism, white privilege, and more.

The committee challenges the idea that such warnings are appropriate in the first place, writing, “the presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged is infantilizing and anti-intellectual.” The authors include language also used by sexual assault advocates, only in reverse, saying that the “demand for trigger warnings creates a repressive, ‘chilly climate’ for critical thinking in the classroom.” Ultimately, they believe that trigger warnings are a mode of censorship that imposes a value system on content and reduces students to the status of victim.

As a tenured full professor myself, I understand how faculty members might feel that an administrative requirement for a broad range of trigger warnings infringes upon academic freedom. I get it. However, I believe that the early ideas proposed by advocates of sexual assault to voluntarily include trigger warnings for sexually explicit or violent themes in the classroom recognizes the growing numbers of veterans in the classroom as well as survivors of sexual assault. The committee goes so far as to say, “the classroom is not the appropriate venue to treat PTSD, which is a medical condition that requires serious medical treatment.” Of course the classroom isn’t a venue to treat PTSD, but students diagnosed with it might be better served by faculty members who understand how it affects students’ learning in their classrooms rather than faculty who dismiss the practice of trigger warnings altogether.

The AAUP’s statement says that trigger warnings are a way of displacing the problem of sexual assault and “locating its solution in the classroom.” If only it were that simple. Administrators know that there is no easy solution to preventing or diminishing alcohol/substance abuse and sexual violence. What they are looking for are partners who recognize that complex social problems need to be addressed comprehensively. What administrators are really looking for is faculty who are proactive and productive partners in the effort to reduce the impact of violence on campus.

The full AAUP report can be found here: http://www.aaup.org/report/trigger-warnings.

**Think About It includes a trigger warning that precedes the “Bleak Friday” section of the course, and provides RAINN’s 24/hr telephone number as a resource.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

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.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone