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Are Climate Surveys Part of Title IX/Clery Act Compliance?
Posted by On Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On April 29, 2014, the White House Task Force issued its “Not Alone” report with an overview of how to plan and conduct a campus sexual assault climate survey, as well as a sample survey based on best practices. The report urges “schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting the survey next year.”

In a May 2015 article, “Climate Surveys Are Coming,” readers were told, “The task force’s suggestion that schools conduct climate surveys is one of several signals that surveys soon will be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.”

On the same day that the White House report came out, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued the guidance document, “Questions & Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence,” which listed conducting climate surveys as one of the ways to “limit the effects of the alleged sexual violence and prevent its recurrence,” if a victim requests confidentiality and does not want formal action taken against the alleged perpetrator.

Other signals that campus climate surveys soon may be mandated include OCR agreements resulting from Title IX investigations and compliance reviews that require schools to conduct surveys, including: Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Montana, Southern Methodist University, Lehigh University, Harvard Law School, Lyon College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Dayton, Cedarville University, Glenville State College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, State University of New York, and Rockford University.

Instead of waiting for federal laws or Title IX guidance that mandate climate surveys, some states have already enacted laws requiring them:

  • Maryland House Bill 571 requires institutions of higher education to “DEVELOP AN APPROPRIATE SEXUAL ASSAULT CAMPUS CLIMATE SURVEY, USING NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED BEST PRACTICES FOR RESEARCH AND CLIMATE SURVEYS,” and submit to the Maryland Higher Education Commission on or before June 1, 2016 (and every two years thereafter), a report aggregating the data collected by the survey, including:
        1. Types of misconduct
        2. Outcome of each complaint
        3. Disciplinary actions taken by institutions
        4. Accommodations made to students
        5. Number of reports involving alleged nonstudent perpetrators
  • The New YorkEnough is Enough” law signed on July 7, 2015, requires all New York colleges and universities to conduct campus climate surveys at least every other year. The survey requirement goes into effect on July 7, 2016.
  • The State of Washington passed a new law (SSB 5518.SL), requiring state universities, the regional universities, The Evergreen State College, the community colleges, and the technical colleges to conduct a campus climate survey and report their findings to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2016.
  • Louisiana passed a new law (SB 255) which provides, “When funding is made available, each public postsecondary education institution shall administer an annual, anonymous sexual assault climate survey to its students.”
  • In addition, the Massachusetts legislature is considering Bill S. 650, which would create a task force to develop a sexual assault climate survey to be administered by colleges and universities selected by the task force.

Meanwhile, Boston University launched a student survey in March 2015 (see FAQs about BU’s survey) and, while not required by law, the University of California conducted a campus climate survey on its campuses in Spring 2013 (see results and FAQs). Previously, we’ve reported on published data from other climate surveys, what experts say, and how to get started.

With Congress back in session, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act may have gained some momentum from the July 29th hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Testimony received at that hearing included strong support from the Association of American Universities for campus climate surveys, pointing out that it is important that schools directly or indirectly control survey administration so that it addresses the unique circumstances of individual campuses.

We will continue to watch this closely as the patchwork quilt of climate survey requirements continues to unfold. We will also be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, October 13th with Peter Novak from University of San Francisco and Jessica Ladd from Sexual Health Innovations about climate surveys and data.  Follow our twitter account @CampusClarity for the link to register as the date gets closer.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 29, 2015

More states are considering “Yes Means Yes” laws, and the five things you need to know about climate surveys.

More States Consider Affirmative Consent Bills

We’ve reported extensively on California’s “Yes Means Yes” law, which requires colleges and universities that participate in state student financial aid programs to adopt a definition of consent as an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” At the time, we described California as being “at the forefront of addressing a difficult societal problem with a controversial new law.” Now, as expected by our team of legal analysts, other states are following California’s lead with affirmative consent laws of their own. Connecticut’s Senate has passed a similar bill already—if the law is approved by the House and signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut will become the second state with an affirmative consent law. A movement in favor of such a law is under way in Pennsylvania as well, with some schools in that state having adopted an affirmative consent definition without a legislative mandate.

What You Need to Know About Climate Surveys

It is generally agreed that mandatory climate surveys are coming. What does your institution need to know to be prepared? This article from Inside Higher Ed provides a useful cheat sheet, listing five things you should know about mandatory climate surveys. They include the likelihood that such surveys will be required by law, the fact that surveys are already being designed and deployed at various campuses, the caveat that participation will pose unique challenges, what remains unknown about how the surveys will be utilized, and the possibility that climate surveys will reveal “blind spots” in a school’s prevention efforts. The notalone.gov website provides information about how to plan and conduct a climate survey, as well as a sample “empirically informed survey.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 8, 2015

For this week’s roundup we have two different articles focusing on different aspects of the data released last Tuesday by the Department of Education and a list of seven things to know about CASA from the National Law Review.

Good News: The Number of Reported Sexual Assaults is Up

The data released by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Federal Student Aid office (FSA) last Tuesday in response to a request from Senators Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tim Kaine, confirmed a trend we’ve noted earlier —the number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses has been and continues to increase dramatically. In 2009, 3,300 assaults were reported. In 2013, there were over 6,000 reports. As we and others have covered extensively, this is a positive development in the fight against campus sexual violence, suggesting that increased awareness has made students feel more comfortable reporting incidents of sexual violence than they did in the past. However, as pointed out by this article from the Christian Science Monitor, the number of reported assaults still trails far behind the numbers reported in anonymous surveys, indicating there is still much work to do.

Bad News: The Length of OCR Investigations is Also Up

One unfortunate side effect of the federal government’s aggressive efforts to address campus sexual violence is a dramatic increase in the average length of Title IX investigations. The same report discussed in the above story reveals that the average OCR investigation now takes 1,469 days—around four years, meaning that even a student who filed a complaint as a freshman would graduate before the investigation was resolved. As this piece from Bloomberg Business points out, there are serious consequences of an investigation dragging on that long—solutions to the problems that led to the complaint are delayed, the facts of the pertinent cases become more difficult to ascertain, and victim/survivors are denied closure. However, as the renewed focus on sexual assault leads to more and more complaints and investigations, the OCR has seen its budget cut — reducing its full-time staff from 1,148 to 544 between 1980 and 2014 — contributing to delays and a backlog of cases.  The President’s budget proposal and Senators Kaine, Boxer, and Gillibrand have called for increased funding for the OCR.

The National Law Review Tells You What You Need to Know About CASA

If you follow this blog regularly you’ll have seen this analysis of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the proposed law with bipartisan support that would introduce new, more stringent regulations for how colleges and universities handle sexual harassment and violence. The article above, published by the National Law Review, highlights seven aspects of the proposed law you should be aware of, including increased fines, a Campus Climate Survey requirement, and broader reporting requirements.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 13, 2015

A new study suggests disturbing trends in the frequency of sexual assault reporting, what Canada could learn from American sexual assault laws, and what American colleges could learn from the military academies.

Do Schools Report More Assaults When They’re Being Investigated?

A study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that schools being audited by the Department of Education saw an average rise of 44% in the number of reported sexual assaults. More worrisome, however, is what happened after the audit ended—the average school went back to the pre-audit number of reports. One possibility is that schools over report assaults while being audited out of an overabundance of caution. Another uglier explanation, favored by the researchers, is that schools under report violence when they think they can get away with it. In any case, the New York Times article points out that climate surveys, a key aspect of the proposed Campus Accountability and Safety Act, could result in more accurate, consistent information.

What Could Canada Learn from America’s Higher Education Laws?

While The New York Times calls for passage of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would amend the Clery Act, Canadian news outlet CBC is pointing to that 1990 law as an example of the sort of legislation needed to address campus sexual violence in their country. While observers in this country often decry what they see as slow or inadequate responses to sexual assault cases on college campuses, CBC points to cases in which students used the Clery Act to force schools to respond to rape and other violence on campus in a relatively timely manner as evidence that similar legislation is needed in Canada, where a lack of such laws at the national level leads to an inconsistent “patchwork” approach.

What Can Colleges Learn from Military Academies?

Just as Canada may have something to learn from the United States, American colleges might take a page out of the military service academy’s book when it comes to sexual assault prevention. The U.S. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point have been under scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault cases for some time, as has the military as a whole. As a result, they have implemented more extensive anti-violence programs than many liberal arts universities. For example, at Annapolis, students are required to participate in training during all four years of their education. The program is further distinguished from other higher education training by the fact that current students lead lessons and discussions. That approach is already being considered by Dartmouth College as a potential model for their own anti-sexual violence training programs. It is also worth noting that both Senators Claire McCaskill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who have worked on reforms to improve how the military handles sexual assault, are now working together to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

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Yearly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, January 2, 2015

In lieu of our usual Weekly Roundup we want to start 2015 with a look back at six of the most important stories we covered in 2014. We list them here in the order in which they were originally published.

White House Task Force Tells Victims “You’re Not Alone”

This year the Obama administration launched its anti-sexual assault campaign in earnest, including a White House task force and the ad campaign “It’s On Us.”

A Checklist for Title IX Employee Training

If you have any doubts about what your Title IX training for faculty and staff should include, take a look at this useful checklist compiled by our legal team.

2 Minutes Will Change How Your Students Think About Consent

Teaching the definition of consent can be as awkward as it is crucial. This video, originally created for our award-winning online training, tackles this potentially tough lesson in an engaging, easy to follow format.

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act

One of the biggest stories about campus sexual assault and higher education law in 2014, the proposed Campus Accountability and Safety Act, is almost certainly going to be an even bigger story in 2015. Get the scoop now on what the proposed legislation could mean for your institution.

California’s New Consent Law: Yes Means Yes vs. No Means No

Even if California law doesn’t apply to you and your institution, this rundown of the Golden State’s new affirmative consent law is an instructive analysis of the difference between “No Means No” and “Yes Means Yes” definitions of consent.

A Rundown of the Campus SaVE Act Final Regulations: Prevention Programs

Finally, our legal team provides an analysis of a topic with which they are particularly familiar: what the Campus SaVE Act’s final regulations require for schools’ prevention programs. Check out the link above to learn what your institution has to do to be in compliance.

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Senators Focus on Campus Assault Police Reports
Posted by On Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Previously, we have written about victims’ reluctance to report campus sexual assaults to the police. Finding the solution to that problem is front and center in the debate about how schools and the criminal justice system should be handling cases of sexual violence. This debate set the stage for a hearing held last week by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on improving law enforcement’s response to campus sexual assault and the relationship between police departments and campuses.

Opening remarks at the hearings unanimously called for a different approach that will better address sexual assault victims’ fear of being revictimized when reporting these crimes.

Sen. Claire McCaskill discussed the importance of strengthening victim support systems, stating that “A victim who is assaulted on a Friday night needs to know, on that Friday night, where she can call and where she can go for confidential support and good information, which we hope gives her the encouragement to make the choice to move forward in the criminal justice system.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand testified, “[O]ur ultimate goal should be that 100 percent of survivors of campus sexual assault feel comfortable and confident reporting to law enforcement . . . But, time and again, I have heard from far too many survivors of campus sexual assault that they have felt re-victimized by the process of trying to seek justice for the crime committed against them.”

Last July, together with a bipartisan group of Senators, Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, intended to protect and empower students and increase accountability for schools around sexual violence.

Improving Campus Response Goes Hand-in-Hand With Improving Police Response

Angela Fleischer, the Assistant Director of Student Support and Intervention for Confidential Advising at Southern Oregon University, helped create the Ashland Police Department’s You Have Options Program and Southern Oregon’s Campus Choice. Fleischer said at the hearings that “The need for programs like these is urgent and undeniable . . ..”

According to Fleischer, improving the campus response goes hand-in-hand with improving the law enforcement response. To improve reporting of sexual assault, she urges both campus administration and law enforcement to start by training anyone who interviews victims on trauma informed interviewing techniques. By creating a coordinated victim-centered approach, the You Have Options and Campus Choice programs have more than doubled reporting of sexual assault in their jurisdictions.

This approach also focuses on collecting information about offenders in the community by allowing victims to come forward and report in the manner in which they are most comfortable, whether it is anonymously, in person, or online. Besides having control over reporting, victims also decide the timeframe and scope of the investigation with the option to suspend the investigation at any time.

Best Practices

Speaking from the perspective of law enforcement, Kathy Zoner, Chief of the Cornell University Police, offered best practices that can be adopted on all campuses:

  • Adopt victim-centered and offender-focused response procedures;
  • Prioritize medical and advocacy resources for every victim who reports a sexual assault;
  • Provide non-victim-blaming education to community members within the agency’s jurisdiction;
  • Train and hold accountable every member of the participating agency – sworn and non-sworn – for the same victim-centered and offender-focused response; and
  • Promote an environment within the agency where victims of sexual assault are not judged or blamed for their assault and instead are treated with dignity, sensitivity, and courtesy.

Creating a New System

Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One, Rhode Island’s sexual assault coalition, told the committee that what’s needed is to create a new universal system such as the You Have Options program. According to Langhammer, “We can’t expect victims to report when the system in place doesn’t work . . . So the question is not, should colleges be mandated to report these crimes to police? The question is how do we create a system where the victim’s choices are the priority and the process is designed to work in the best interest of the victim?”

Langhammer recommends a new system made up of a team of representatives from law enforcement, prosecution, victim advocates, medical professionals, and higher education that is responsible for handling sexual assault cases from the initial report to investigation and resolution.

According to Langhammer, “The college hearing process should be integrated with law enforcement. Police need to be involved, but it has to be a team approach.”

Cooperation and Education

Senators Grassley, McCaskill, Gillibrand, and Whitehouse all pledged to work with the new Congress to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would require schools to enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement to define their respective responsibilities and to share information in sexual violence cases, “when directed by the victim.”

Meanwhile, Philip Cohen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park, argues that an institution’s “most important obligation and best hope for solving the problem: educating students to change the culture around sexual violence.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, December 12, 2014

For this week’s roundup we bring you the latest news from the Senate and the Department of Justice’s report on sexual assault.

Senate Hearings on Campus Sexual Assault

On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime met to discuss campus sexual assault. Senators expressed concern with the way campus sexual assaults are handled by universities and colleges, with several lawmakers questioning the role of the police, or lack thereof, in investigating assaults. Additionally, both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill expressed concerns about how the fall-out from Rolling Stone’s now-controversial article on an alleged gang rape at UVA  might affect efforts to fight campus sexual assault at UVA and other schools. Senator Gillibrand said, “And I hope it will not discourage other students from coming forward because it is the students themselves all across the country who are demanding reform and their voices are vital in this debate. And I refuse to let this story become an excuse for Congress to do nothing and accept a broken system.”

Senate Will Move Forward with Campus Sexual Assault Bill in the New Year

One thing the Republican take-over of the Senate will not affect in the new year is Senate plans for bills to combat college sexual assault. Indeed, Republican co-sponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act Chuck Grassley is set to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senate Republicans take control of the Senate next year. Said Grassley, “Obviously, this is something we are going to deal with or I wouldn’t be putting my name on a bill. I would think it’s a major issue.”  As we’ve previously reported, the CASA legislation would increase support and resources for victims and survivors, including the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all colleges and universities.

The DOJ Report on Sexual Assault

The Department of Justice has released a report on sexual assault and rape among college-aged females. Their findings are sobering, as might be expected. According to the report, “Fewer than one in five female student and non-student victims of rape and sexual assault received assistance from a victim services agency,” a finding that reinforces the need for a victim-centered approach . The DOJ also found that college-aged women were more likely to experience rape and sexual assault than any other age group, that women not in school were more likely to be assaulted than their peers in college, and that young women in school were less likely to report their assault to law enforcement.

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5 Stories About Compliance That You Need to Know this Fall
Posted by On Thursday, August 28, 2014

We know you’re busy preparing your campus for the Fall semester or welcoming students to campus. Over the next few months, however, there are some important developments you should be following. Below is a handy overview.

The Campus SaVE Act Regulations

Yes, the Campus SaVE Act is already law, but the regulations are still being finalized and won’t be released until November.

Signed into law in March of 2013, the Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act. It includes three major provisions: it expands the crimes that schools must report in their Annual Security Report; it establishes what should be included in the school’s policies and procedures to address campus sexual assault; and, finally, it mandates extensive “primary prevention and awareness programs” — which include training for students and staff — regarding recovery, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct and related offenses.

After a process of negotiated rulemaking, the Department of Education published the draft regulations for the SaVE Act in the Federal Register this June, collected public comments on the proposed regulations this summer, and will publish the final regulations by November 1st. The regulations will be effective by July 1, 2015. Though the final regulations have not been published, schools need to make a good faith effort to comply with the SaVE Act by October 1st this year.

Check out some of our past coverage of the SaVE Act.

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act (CASA)

Of the bills recently introduced into the Senate or House of Representatives, CASA has received the lion’s share of the attention. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill are the most visible sponsors of the bill, but CASA enjoys strong bi-partisan support and includes prominent Republican co-sponsors such as Marco Rubio. The bill was developed by McCaskill and Gillibrand through a series of roundtables with victims, survivors, experts, advocates, and administrators. The senators also conducted a national survey of colleges and universities about how they responded to sexual misconduct on their campuses. Based on the findings of the survey and roundtables, the bill aims to curb campus sexual violence “by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.”

Specifically, the bill introduces fines for non-compliant institutions of up to 1% of their operating budgets and increases penalties for Clery Act violations from $35,000 to as much as $150,000 per violation. In terms of transparency, CASA would establish a government administered annual campus climate survey as well as a website run by the Department of Education with contact information for all Title IX coordinators and information on the Department of Education’s investigations, findings, and resolution agreements related to Title IX. Finally, the bill increases support and resources for victims and survivors through provisions detailing extensive training for staff, the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all higher-education institutions, and a required amnesty policy for students who reveal conduct violations (such as underage drinking) when reporting in good faith an incident of sexual violence.

For our past coverage, check out this list of our stories about CASA.

The Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act)

Introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, and in the House by Susan Davis, the SOS Campus Act is fairly straightforward; it would require schools to “designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault and prevention.” The Advocate would help victims and survivors connect with support resources like counseling or legal services and guide them through the reporting and adjudication processes. The bill emphasizes the independence of this new position, explaining that “the Advocate shall represent the interests of the student victim even when in conflict with the interests of the institution.”

Boxer recently wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, asking her to voluntarily adopt the provisions in the bill: “I am working hard to pass the SOS Campus Act in Congress, but our students cannot afford to wait another minute for that to happen.”

Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT Act)

Introduced by Representatives Jackie Speier and Pat Meehan, the HALT Act — like CASA — would improve transparency around campus sexual assault and increase the sanctions for schools violating student’s Title IX civil rights.

The HALT Act would require public disclosure of resolution agreements and program reviews from Title IX investigations and create mandatory climate surveys (the first of which would have to be administered no later than April 1st, 2015). It would also create a Campus Sexual Violence Task Force that would, among other things, publish an annual report on these issues.

With the praise of some and the condemnation of others, the bill would also create much stronger sanctions for non-compliant schools. It gives the Office of Civil Rights the ability to levy fines, “the amount of which shall be determined by the gravity of the violation.” It also gives students a private right of action. In other words, students could sue schools directly without going through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

New Training Materials

The White House’s Not Alone report promised a host of new training materials and information on best-practices for this fall. Below is a list of what we can expect:

  • This Fall — “the CDC, in collaboration with the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and the Department of Education, will convene a panel of experts to identify emerging, promising practices to prevent sexual assault on campus.”
  • September — “the Justice Department’s Center for Campus Public Safety will develop a training program for campus officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases.”
  • December — “the Department of Education, through the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, will develop trauma-informed training materials for campus health center staff.”

We look forward to the release of these materials, which should prove valuable to schools trying to develop and improve their comprehensive awareness and prevention programs.

Even without the passage of any new legislation, new federal regulations, along with the recommendations and workshops, should provide schools with a strong set of requirements and best practices that will help them change campus culture to eliminate sexual violence.

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