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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, April 24, 2015

As we approach the end of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we have two announcements related to the annual event and speculation that a new study might shine more light on the prevalence of sexual violence on American campuses.

White House Blog Post on SAAM

The current White House has been particularly active on the issue of campus sexual assault, launching the “It’s On Us” campaign as part of an overall initiative to reduce sexual violence at institutions of higher education. For sexual assault awareness month, the White House has publicized the accomplishments of the “It’s On Us” campaign, including a recent appearance by Vice President Biden. Those include 600 It’s On Us events, 300 campus It’s On Us student campaigns, 200,000 It’s On Us pledges taken, and partnerships with the likes of Funny or Die and Pandora.

DOJ and DOE SAAM Statement

The Department of Justice and Department of Education took a different route, recognizing SAAM by publishing a blog post that explained the multi-pronged approach for addressing campus sexual assault. Specifically, the post weighed in on an often-asked and somewhat fraught question: Why are schools investigating crimes, which should fall under the jurisdiction of the local police force? The post points out that college administrators are required by civil rights laws to provide a safe and supportive learning environment to victim/survivors of sexual assault. Law enforcement, on the other hand, handles criminal justice matters.

Could the AAU Climate Survey Shed More Light on the Prevalence of Assault in College?

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. The commonly cited statistic that 1 in 5 female college students will be assaulted before graduating is often attacked by critics who maintain that the real number is much lower. Others suggest that the actual number may be even higher. Of course, such a controversy is possible mostly because of the lack of empirical data surrounding sexual assault. Now, some people are hoping a new survey from the American Association of Universities could change that. The above piece from Business Insider speculates that the new survey, which will be made available to 800,000 students at 27 institutions, will provide the raw data necessary to better understand the prevalence of sexual assault, and hopefully improve efforts to fight it. The AAU climate survey also has its critics, including a group of researchers who claim that the survey “is proprietary and therefore not available for scientific examination” and that AAU plans to release aggregated data instead of individual campus data needed for comparison.

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White House Task Force Releases New Resource
Posted by On Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last April, when the White House released the first report from its Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, they promised to provide schools with a sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement. On Monday, the White House finally released their sample MOU. The release coincided with last week’s anniversary of President Obama establishing the White House Task Force.

As described in the document, Memorandums of Understanding “describe the responsibilities of the parties in carrying out an activity or process of mutual interest.” These documents help schools, local law enforcement, and other key stakeholders respond to and prevent incidents in a more coordinated, collaborative, and effective way.

The sample MOU, however, is only meant as a road map; each institution will have to tailor it to its unique needs. As the Department of Justice’s press release explained, “the sample MOU is…intended to be a starting point for a conversation between campus administrators, campus police and local law enforcement on how to improve collaborations between critical first responders.”

Furthermore, while the sample MOU is focused on sexual assault, it encourages schools and local enforcement agencies to develop MOUs around other issues, including domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

We’ll continue to keep you informed as the White House Task Force releases more resources and information.

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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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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, November 14, 2014

Collective punishment for fraternities, the latest video by “It’s On Us,” and a timeline of sexual assault news from the last year.

Is Collective Punishment for Fraternities an Effective Prevention Technique?

In the wake of sexual assaults, fatal accidents, and other tragedies associated with fraternity parties, more and more colleges are turning to what some have deemed collective punishment: restricting or eliminating social events for all Greek organizations on campus, not just those associated with prior incidents. At Johns Hopkins all fraternity parties are banned until the end of the current semester, following a reported rape at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, despite the fact that neither the assailants nor the victim were associated with the fraternity. At Emory University all Greek social activities have been suspended following an assault at a fraternity house, and at MIT fraternity gatherings cannot exceed 49 people—the result of an accident in which a woman fell out of a fraternity window. Some commentators applaud such steps as common sense preventative measures while others have criticized such steps as unfair to fraternities and sororities that may be doing everything right and still be punished for a different group’s misdeeds or carelessness.

“It’s On Us” Promotes Bystander Intervention

Check out the latest spot from the White House’s “It’s On Us” anti-sexual assault campaign, which doubles-down on the theme of bystander intervention with a dramatization of a college-aged young man preventing sexual assault at a party. The video, narrated by Mad Men actor Jon Hamm, reflects current research suggesting bystander intervention may be a particularly promising prevention strategy. Other efforts will include partnerships with professional sports leagues, efforts to change the tone of victim-blaming conversations on the internet, and prizes for students who submit innovative strategies for bystander intervention.

A Timeline of Campus Sexual Assault

The past year has seen numerous developments in the fight against sexual assault on college campuses, including a White House campaign, new laws, and the latest count of 85 OCR investigations. This interactive infographic from Al-Jazeera America provides a timeline of the most relevant stories from the past year, serving as both useful summary and convenient resource.

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Ten Free Resources on Bystander Intervention
Posted by On Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bystander Intervention has received a lot of attention from educators and advocates in the last few years. The most recent guidance from the Department of Education about Title IX recommends that schools provide training to students on “strategies and skills for bystanders to intervene to prevent possible sexual violence.” The White House’s first report on campus sexual violence pointed to bystander intervention as a “promising prevention strategy” that schools should be implementing on their campuses.

Fortunately, there are already numerous resources available to schools to begin developing their own bystander training. Alongside the White House’s report, the CDC released a document outlining what’s involved in building a bystander program. It provides a great starting point. Below are some more resources you can use to educate trainers about how to teach bystander intervention as well as videos and other materials you can use in workshops with students.

Dr. Alan Berkowitz — Bystander Intervention

This series of short videos by renowned consultant on social justice issues Alan Berkowitz provides a good resource for staff and faculty who are preparing bystander workshops or materials. Berkowitz tells stories of intervention and the principles they illustrate.

Dr. Mary C. Gentile — Giving Voice to Your Values

Mary Gentile teaches ethical decision-making and values-driven leadership for business schools. Although these topics might seem a far cry from sexual violence, they’re not. Her book and workshops focus on teaching students how to speak up and step in when they see something wrong. At the center of her approach is the idea that most ethics education focuses too much on recognizing ethical dilemmas and debating the nuances of them as opposed to responding to ethical dilemmas. Her book and website are full of resources that could be adapted to bystander training for students, staff, and faculty around issues of sexual violence.

Who Are You — Bystander Intervention Video

This video went viral last year. From a New Zealand multi-media campaign aimed at stopping sexual violence, it illustrates all the different people who could have intervened in one evening to stop a sexual assault. The video could fit well into workshops about sexual violence, consent, and, of course, bystander intervention.

Prevent Connect Wiki

This website includes a 10 minute video on “Engaging Bystanders in Violence Against Women Prevention,” which can be a nice introduction for staff or administrators unfamiliar with the approach. The website also includes a good list of videos you can use to discuss bystander intervention strategies, including several clips from the ABC show “What Would You Do?” that involve bystander action around sexual harassment and potential sexual violence.

White House — It’s On Us Campaign

As part of its effort to curb sexual violence, the White House has started an awareness campaign to promote intervening behaviors. The website includes some good resources, including videos.

NSVRC — Bystander Intervention Resources

“This online resource collection offers advocates and preventionists information and resources on bystander intervention. It includes resources to use with community members, as well as information and research on the effectiveness of bystander intervention.”

MIT — Active Bystanders

A nice site with some advice on effective intervention strategies as well as a few interactive scenarios students or facilitators could use to practice bystander skills.

Step Up!

A comprehensive bystander intervention program, Step Up offers a lot of great free resources to help staff develop bystander programs on their campuses. It offers great guides on developing effective bystander scripts. One of the great things about Step Up is that they broaden intervention beyond sexual violence to include issues like drinking, anger, and academic honesty. It is another valuable resource for students and educators. In particular, check out their library of videos that you can use to facilitate discussions about how to intervene and barriers to intervention.

Dr. David Lisak

David Lisak’s homepage offers some valuable resources on understanding predators and the predatory nature of sexual violence.

Samantha Stendal and Aaron Blanton – “A Needed Response”

Created during the Steubenville rape trial by two University of Oregon students, this short, simple video conveys a powerful message about treating women with respect. The video was honored with a Peabody Award, the first viral video to receive that accolade.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, September 26, 2014

For this week’s roundup we’re going to look at how co-ed frats, millennial marketing strategies, and survivors who refused to be silent are challenging rape culture on campus.

Wesleyan Forces Frats to Admit Women

Back in May we brought you this story about a proposed policy change at Wesleyan University. After a number of high-profile sexual assault scandals, many of them involving fraternities, the school considered mandating that fraternities begin accepting female members. Now, that policy has been implemented, and Wesleyan frats will have three years to start letting in women. The reaction from students and alumni will presumably be mixed, but at least some have already taken to Twitter hailing the change and the changes they expect it to bring to fraternity culture at Wesleyan.

The Ad Agency behind “It’s On Us”

Last week President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden unveiled the new anti-sexual assault White House campaign “It’s On Us.” This piece profiles the ad agency behind that campaign, the San Francisco-based agency Mekanism. Wanting to create positive change with the talent at his company, Mekanism president and CEO Jason Harris reached out to PVBLIC Foundation after an event called Media for Social Impact. Just two days later the agency was tapped by the White House to do a campaign “to help prevent sexual assault on college campuses.” The agency was chosen largely thanks to past campaigns for clients such as Pepsi and Axe that targeted millennials—a key demographic in the fight against sexual assault, given the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.

Profiles of Students Activists

We’ve all heard stories about student activists fighting sexual assault such as Columbia’s Emma Sulkowicz, also known as “mattress girl.” This profile from New York Magazine goes deeper than most, telling the stories of several activists, including Sulkowicz, fellow Columbia student Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, and Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, a pair of UNC Chapel Hill alumni who run an “anti-assault Death Star” out of their Los Angeles apartment. The story focuses on the birth of a thriving anti-assault movement at Columbia, and is well worth taking the time to read.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, September 19, 2014

For this week’s roundup we have three stories about the latest in substance abuse and sexual violence prevention efforts.

New White House Campaign Enlists Men in the Fight against Sexual Assault

Today President Obama and Vice President Biden announced a new campaign intended to encourage bystander intervention preventing sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign, called “It’s On Us,” is intended for all students, but is particularly focused on men. Research suggests that although the majority of college-aged men disapprove of sexual assault and sexual violence, they may be reluctant to speak out against it due to the mistaken belief that their peers will disagree. “It’s On Us” will attempt to dispel that belief. The campaign will be promoted on its website, social media and through partnerships with colleges, organizations, and private parties.

University of California Announces Plans to Take Action on Sexual Assault

In June, University of California President Janet Napolitano formed a task force on preventing and responding to sexual violence to investigate ways the University of California system could improve its current policies and procedures. This week, the task force announced seven recommendations to improve the UC’s response to sexual violence. The recommendations aim to create a more consistent, system-wide approach to these issues, including the creation of campus response teams, the standardization of adjudication and investigation procedures, the introduction of comprehensive training for students and employees, and the establishment on each campus of an independent, confidential advocacy office to support survivors. Napolitano praised the task force’s recommendations, calling them a “testament to the collaborative and rigorous approach the university is taking to become the national leader in preventing and combating sexual violence and sexual assault.”

Colleges Finding Ways to Fight Binge Drinking

If binge drinking on college campuses sometimes seems like an intractable problem, schools like Frostburg State University are proving that with the right policies administrators can reduce reckless drinking amongst their student population. Frostburg has partnered with local law enforcement, bars, and lawmakers to step up police presence around campus and limit students’ access to alcohol. They also have increased the number of Friday classes in an effort to reduce Thursday night drinking, and begun a campaign highlighting the less attractive aspects of drinking to excess. While some of the new policies are less-than-popular with students, they do seem to be having the intended effect. The number of Frostburg students who binge drink at least once every two weeks is down from 57% to 41%, much closer to the national average.

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Golden State Auditor Issues Report
Posted by On Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Golden State Auditor Issues Report

What is Ongoing?
Posted by On Friday, May 23, 2014
Ongoing Training