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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 10, 2015

This week we have more on the growing list of school’s under investigation, data on what usually happens to those schools, and one of the possible consequences of increased scrutiny of colleges and universities.

The List of Schools Investigated for Title IX Grows to 106

The U.S Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is currently investigating 106 colleges and universities for Title IX compliance related to the schools’ handling of sexual violence cases. This number has almost doubled since May last year, when the DOE first revealed the list of schools it was investigating. Catherine Lhamon, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, explained last May that the OCR was releasing the list “to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights.” She also clarified that being under investigation did not mean that the college or university “is violating or has violated the law.”

Four Charts Showing What Happens to Schools Accused of Discrimination

What happens to schools investigated by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights? Based on nearly 9,000 complaints the OCR investigated over the last 11 years, these charts reveal the vast majority of Title IX cases were simply dismissed. Furthermore, no Title IX investigation resulted in “enforcement,” where the OCR would strip a school of federal funding. Instead schools enter into resolution agreements with the OCR first, obligating schools to take steps that meet the OCR’s Title IX compliance requirements. For example, it was reported last May that after “Tufts defiantly backed out of an agreement,” the OCR “warned that it could move to terminate Tufts’ federal funding if the university did not comply, a result so catastrophic that it virtually required Tufts to reach some understanding with the government.” Once Tufts’ president received “clarity” about the basis for OCR finding the university in violation of Title IX, Tufts agreed to change its policies on how to handle sexual assault cases.

The Tufts case supports commentators in the recent Bloomberg article, suggesting that the lack of enforcement demonstrates how the threat of losing federal funding forces schools into compliance: too much is at stake for schools to do anything but concede to the OCR’s requests. Other commentators, however, argue that the lack of enforcement exposes the OCR’s weakness and the lack of political will to punish schools for violating Title IX. It is worth noting, however, that the number of Title IX complaints rose fivefold between 2012 and 2013. The article attributes the spike to the OCR’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which laid out a school’s responsibilities to respond to complaints of sexual harassment.

30 Fraternities Shut Down in Past Month

One way schools are responding to increased scrutiny by the OCR and in the media is by cracking down on misconduct. As we’ve been covering for a while now, fraternities in particular have felt the heat of school’s greater vigilance. As this Huffington Post article reports, since the beginning of March alone, thirty fraternities have been shut down by their school or their national headquarters. The incidents that prompted the closures cover a range of student conduct violations. According to the article, one fraternity used a stun gun to intimidate its pledges and another damaged 45 rooms at a ski resort. The article suggests that the Internet may also be partially responsible for the increased scrutiny, since it’s easier to “circulate ­­– and catch – examples of misbehavior.” The article ends, however, with a comment from Jason Laker, a professor at San Jose State University. Laker reminds us that some of fraternity members’ bad behavior may have roots in larger cultural constructs of masculinity.

 

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, January 16, 2015

This week’s roundup includes new PSAs against domestic violence, the disturbing results of a survey on sexual assault, and UVA’s new rules for fraternities and sororities.

The NFL and No More

If you’re a football fan there’s a good chance you’ve seen PSAs from the public awareness campaign No More. No More aims to raise awareness about and work against sexual violence, including both domestic violence and sexual assault. Now the campaign is reaching one of America’s biggest audiences with PSAs featuring NFL players, run during NFL games. The partnership arose out of the NFLs attempts to rehabilitate their image in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, an incident that called the league’s commitment to working against sexual violence into serious question. While most of the spots feature players reiterating the message of “no more,” as in “No more ‘we don’t talk about that’,” or “No more ‘boys will be boys’,” many feel that the most powerful of the No More PSAs is the “Speechless” series, unplanned pieces filmed as players prepared, and sometimes struggled, to talk about sexual violence.

Would 1/3 of College Men Commit Rape if They Could Get Away With It?

The alarming answer to that question is yes, according to a recently published survey. When asked if they would have “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if “nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences,” 32 percent of the study’s participants answered yes. When asked if they would have “any intentions to rape a woman” that number dropped to 13.6%, a result with the disturbing implication that many men do not consider “forcing a woman to sexual intercourse” to be a definition of rape. Perhaps unsurprisingly, willingness to commit rape, no matter how the crime was described, correlated with hostile attitudes towards woman and viewpoints that, according to the study, “objectify women and expect men to exhibit sexual dominance.”

UVA’s New Greek Policy

In the wake of the now-discredited Rolling Stone article that alleged a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, UVA has rolled out new rules for their Greek organizations aimed at curbing the threat of sexual assault. In an agreement fraternities and sororities must sign before resuming activities, the school lays out strict rules for drinking at Greek events. These rules include the requirement that beer must be served in closed containers and that hard alcohol can only be served if the organization hires a bartender. While some people have applauded the new focus on safety and preventing sexual assault, others argue that reducing drinking is the wrong approach. These critics argue that putting the focus on college drinking amounts to blaming victims of assault for the violence perpetuated against them.  Others question the efficacy of the new rules, pointing out that the legal drinking age of 21 is widely flouted on campus, and questioning whether the university will work to enforce the rules it is introducing. Two fraternities at UVA have already refused to sign the new agreement, arguing that it “may create new liability for individual members of our organizations that is more properly a duty to be borne by the university itself.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 9, 2014

The CampusClarity Weekly Roundup has covered stories about the alleged “Dark Power of Fraternities” as well as their potential benefits. Now, the discussion is turning to what schools should and can do about the perceived problems that arise from the fraternity system as it currently exists on their campuses. Today, we take a look at three measures that have been proposed, enacted, and considered respectively.

Bloomberg Recommends Banning Frats

Bloomberg Business Weekly published this op-ed several months ago, in which they (naturally) examined the question of fraternities from a business perspective. Their conclusion? That fraternities do not contribute to the real business of colleges and universities (teaching) and in fact incur unnecessary and perhaps unacceptable liability, as well as damage to a school’s reputation—or, in business terms, brand.

Amherst Follows Bloomberg’s Advice

In the wake of several controversies regarding their sexual assault policies, and in the midst of a federal investigation of those policies, Amherst College is banning fraternities for the second time. While fraternities were kicked off campus in 1984 (soon after Amherst enrolled its first female students) and have not been officially recognized by the school since then, they have existed as off-campus organizations. Around 10 percent of male Amherst students are members of Theta Delta Chi, Chi Psi, or Delta Kappa Epsilon, living in off-campus fraternity houses and even wearing Greek letters. Now, Amherst is doubling-down on the fraternity ban, making membership in the three off-campus frats grounds for suspension and even expulsion.

Wesleyan Considers Integrating Sisters into Fraternities

Another college facing high-profile lawsuits and sexual assault-related scandals is also considering the future of its Greek system. However, instead of doing away with fraternities, Wesleyan University is contemplating increasing the size of their potential membership—by requiring that they accept female members. The hope is that integration will change fraternity culture for the better. Adding women to a rape-prone fraternity could have the opposite effect and create more risk of sexual assault, according to Christopher Kilmartin, a psychology professor at University of Mary Washington.

When Trinity College required both sororities and fraternities to go co-ed, the dean of students said Trinity’s decision was more about “gender parity” than sexual assault prevention. Regardless of the purpose, the decision raised another risk: students, alumni, and parents argued that the move was tantamount to banning Greek life, since admitting members of the opposite sex led to most of the fraternities and sororities losing their charters from their national organizations.

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