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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 3, 2015

For our first roundup of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we have a Presidential Proclamation for SAAM 2015, the results of a new survey on millennials’ beliefs about the prevalence of sexual assault, and Yale’s rollout of a new survey on sexual violence.

Presidential Proclamation

In recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month 2015, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation, declaring “During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, let us commit to being part of the solution and rededicate ourselves to creating a society where violence is not tolerated, survivors are supported, and all people are able to pursue their fullest measure of happiness without fear of abuse or assault.” The White House Task Force established in January 2014 helped bring campus sexual assault out of the shadows by issuing its First Report and creating the website www.NotAlone.gov to make Department of Education enforcement activities, as well as resources for students and schools easily accessible. In addition, the White House 1 is 2 Many report commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. However, as this report points out, while VAWA changed intimate partner violence from a “private family matter” to a crime, much remains to be done to eliminate sexual violence.

Three-Quarters of Millennials Think Sexual Assault is Common on College Campuses

A new survey of millennials (here defined as people born between 1980 and 2000) conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, offers insight into that age group’s beliefs about the prevalence of sexual assault. 73% of millennials said they believed that sexual assault was somewhat or very common on college campuses. A further 60% of those surveyed said that colleges do not do enough to address the problem. The numbers are particularly notable when contrasted with the results of a similar question asked of college presidents in a recent Higher Education survey: just 32% agreed that sexual assault was prevalent on American campuses, and only 6% believed it was prevalent on their own campus. This piece from the Washington Post has some enlightening analysis on the significance of those very different results.

Yale Rolls Out Climate Survey

We’ve reported before on the Association of American Universities’ campus climate survey on sexual misconduct. Schools are now beginning to administer that survey, known as the Campus Sexual Climate Survey. Yale University launched the survey yesterday, making it available to its entire population of graduate and undergraduate students. When all is said and done the AAU survey will be administered by 27 schools and reach more than 800,000 students. The AAU and participating universities hope that the results, when released, will help introduce much needed data into the conversation about campus sexual assault.

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A Checklist for Title IX Employee Training
Posted by On Thursday, May 15, 2014
A Checklist for Title IX Employee Training

White House Task Force Tells Victims “You’re Not Alone”
Posted by On Friday, May 2, 2014

This week the Obama administration took unprecedented steps to address the problem of campus sexual violence. The First Report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, titled “Not Alone,” echoes President Obama’s message to victims and survivors:

Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.

On the same day the Task Force report came out, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a new set of guidelines for Title IX compliance. This week the OCR also released a list of 55 schools that are currently under investigation by the OCR for possible Title IX violations. This sends a strong message to colleges and universities across the country to make their compliance efforts a top priority.

This post will focus on the White House Task Force report. Besides acknowledging areas that require research and further study to determine what works, the Task Force report recommends the following best practices for schools to focus on:

  • Campus Climate Surveys: Developing a comprehensive prevention program is an ongoing process. To determine the unique needs of each campus and to measure a particular program’s success, schools need to gather data on the incidence of sexual assault occurring on their campuses and assess the campus climate among students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The Task Force recommends that schools administer an annual survey in the winter or spring to gather this information and provides guidelines for conducting the surveys. In 2016, the administration will explore legislative or administrative mandates requiring schools to conduct annual campus climate surveys.
  • Prevention programs: Given that evidence on effective campus sexual assault prevention methods is limited, the Centers for Disease Control will solicit research proposals in 2015 to inform sexual violence prevention efforts. Until then, the best practice is for campuses to provide continuing and universal prevention education for all students. Specific training requirements are found in the Campus SaVE Act education program requirements and the OCR’s “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence.”
  • Employee Training: The Task Force emphasizes that the first person a victim talks to should be able to provide a victim with information about available resources and services, how to access confidential support, and how to navigate the school’s disciplinary process. Identifying victim advocates who can provide confidential emergency and ongoing support for victims and survivors is deemed a “key best practice.”
  • Reporting and Confidentiality Policies: The Task Force acknowledges that responding to reports of sexual assault while maintaining a victim’s request for confidentiality is a difficult balancing act. However, it is critical that victims get the support they need and schools adequately respond to the situation. The purpose of the report’s suggested policy language is to make students aware of their options for reporting or making confidential disclosures of sexual violence. The Task Force also promises to provide additional sample language on “several challenging areas” by September 2014.
  • Sexual Misconduct Policies: While a school’s sexual misconduct policies must reflect “the unique aspects of the institution and its student body,” the Task Force provides a checklist of important considerations when drafting policies that effectively address prevention, reporting, and responding to sexual misconduct.

Key elements of the Task Force’s recommended victim-services plan are to either provide comprehensive trauma-informed services on campus or partner with community-based organizations to make crisis intervention services available 24 hours a day. In addition, when reports involve criminal investigations there needs to be communication, cooperation, and coordination among campus security, local law enforcement, and victim support groups to make investigations and adjudications more efficient while supporting the victim’s recovery.

Some schools are experimenting with new ideas for investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases. The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women will begin assessing different models and identifying promising practices in October 2014. Holding offenders accountable is another area where research is “desperately lacking.” The DOJ is now seeking grant applications under its Campus Assault Perpetrator Treatment Pilot Project to gather information on current campus sanctions for sexual assault perpetrators, and to develop and test sexual offender treatment programs.

Finally, the report announces a new website — www.notalone.gov — which provides data and resources for schools, victims, and survivors. For victims and survivors, the website explains how to file a complaint with the OCR and the DOJ against schools for Title IX violations. For schools, the website explains the reporting requirements of the Clery Act and Title IX in sexual assault cases, and how FERPA applies to those obligations. There is also a school-by-school enforcement map, providing links to resolution agreements and court filings addressing Title IX and Clery Act compliance investigations.

If that wasn’t enough information to process, in future posts we’ll help you understand the OCR’s new guidelines and how to put together a prevention program that addresses both the requirements of the Task Force’s best practices and the OCR’s guidelines.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 25, 2014

We want to use this week’s Roundup to catch up with a few of the issues we’ve reported on over the last few months. Below we have three updates, follow-ups, and rebuttals.

Why U.S. News Should Absolutely Not Factor Sexual Assault Into Their College Rankings

In last week’s Roundup we wrote about an open letter, signed by a dozen members of the House of Representatives, calling on U.S. News to consider “violence statistics in annual Clery reports” and information such as whether or not a school has “been found to be in violation of Title IX provisions regarding sexual violence” when compiling their annual ranking of American colleges and universities. This week, Annie E. Clark, co-founder of End Rape on Campus, published a thorough explanation of the pitfalls of that plan on the Huffington Post. Clark pointed out that, among other problems, praising schools for having fewer reported sexual assaults could have the counter-intuitive but unfortunate effect of punishing schools that make it easier for survivors to report assaults and rewarding schools that “discourage reporting and intentionally misrepresent their campuses.”

Colleges Combat Unpaid Internships

Last month we reported on a number of recent court decisions that ruled unpaid internships illegal. Now, various schools are taking their own steps to ensure that their own students don’t fall victim to what many see as an exploitive and increasingly common practice. Some schools are removing unpaid internships from their job boards altogether, while others are requiring that employers guarantee that their internship programs meet the guidelines of the Department of Labor before they post them.

White House Task Force to Make Its Formal Recommendations

We’ve been covering the White House task force on campus sexual assault since its inception. Now, the task force is ready to make their formal recommendations, which will be published next Tuesday (check back here for our analysis next week).  In the meantime, you can peruse a letter to the White house signed by seven senators including Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which recommends requiring anonymous standardized surveys of campus sexual assault for all colleges and universities, creating a searchable public database of all Title IX and Clery Act complaints and investigations, and creating a single position in the Department of Education to handle all Clery Act and Title IX violations involving physical violence or criminal activity.

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