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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, September 4, 2015

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

College Students Smoke More Marijuana than Cigarettes

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

Harvard Allows Students to Pick Gender Pronoun

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

OCR Completes Michigan State Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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