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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.

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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.

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Free Webinar with Dr. Novak
Posted by On Monday, March 16, 2015

Peter NovakTomorrow, we will be hosting a free webinar with Dr. Peter Novak, the Vice Provost for Student Life at the University of San Francisco. If you haven’t already done so be sure to register today.

During this 45-minute webinar, Dr. Novak will answer questions about how he and USF built and deployed their NASPA Gold Excellence award-winning Campus SaVE Act Training Program for students, faculty, and staff, and overcame challenges associated with deploying the campus-wide initiative.

Dr. Novak has an extensive background in Student Life with considerable experience as an academic and administrator in social justice issues. He received his doctorate in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale University. In addition to his doctorate, he holds an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater and an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago.

At Yale Dr. Novak served as Dean of Trumbull College , on the Provost’s Committee on Resources for Students and Employees with Disabilities, and on the Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is also a founding chair and tenured full professor in the Performing Arts and Social Justice program at the University of San Francisco. His research focuses on diversity and language, LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS dramatic literature, and Deaf culture and American Sign Language translation.

In December 2011, dissatisfied with the online training USF was offering incoming students, Dr. Novak approached LawRoom to build Think About It, an online training program for incoming students that addressed campus sexual assault and substance abuse. Dr. Novak had been impressed by the quality of LawRoom’s online harassment training programs developed for faculty and staff, and he felt LawRoom would be a valuable partner in creating a cutting edge, engaging online program on substance abuse and sexual violence for incoming students.

The collaboration brought together LawRoom’s expertise in legal compliance and online training with USF’s experience handling the unique social challenges students face in their transition to college life. As a result of their work, LawRoom developed CampusClarity, a service of LawRoom that is dedicated to creating training solutions for the higher education community.

USF and CampusClarity worked together extensively in the creation of the course. They conducted focus groups and user panels with students to refine the voice and tone of the course and make sure scenarios reflected realistic situations. Additionally, numerous department representatives and programs at USF, including the Gender and Sexualities Center and Health Promotions, helped develop learning objectives and course content. During the development process, USF and CampusClarity also hosted a conference with faculty and staff from 30 universities in order to prepare the course for a diverse group of campuses.

Since the development of Think About It, USF and CampusClarity have continued to collaborate on other initiatives and projects, such as the Talk About It community, a collection of resources administrators can use to implement ongoing programming on their campuses around the issues of sexual violence and alcohol abuse.

Tomorrow, Dr. Novak will talk in more detail about other initiatives he’s implemented at USF. Among other things, he will talk about balancing training with other priorities in Student life and how to create an effective program with limited staff, limited time, and limited budget.

His talk will be valuable for schools looking for ways to improve their current programs, and for schools that are just developing their training programs.

Dr. Novak will also discuss practical solutions for going beyond SaVE Act compliance, including:

- Deploying a campus-wide training program prior to the June deadline.
- How to help ensure adoption of the program by students and faculty.
- On-going educational programming based on institutional data.

Please go to our registration page to sign up for our free webinar if you haven’t already.

 

 

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Peter Novak Talks Think About It and Creating an Ethic of Care on College Campuses
Posted by On Monday, August 25, 2014

The University of San Francisco and Peter Novak, USF’s Vice Provost for Student Life, were recently featured in an article and video from the National Catholic Reporter. The pieces go into detail about Think About It and how USF uses the program.

Vice Provost Novak and USF collaborated (and continue to collaborate) closely with us on developing the Think About It program.

In a recent opinion piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, Novak discussed the challenges schools face in eliminating campus sexual violence and substance abuse and the steps his university is taking to achieve this goal.

“Creating a new culture is the single largest challenge,” Novak writes, “as universities must contend with the many societal norms that have helped to shape students’ expectations of the traditional college experience. We must push ourselves to break new ground in the prevention of harmful behaviors.”

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