Over two years ago, on March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Campus SaVE Act into law as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). The Campus SaVE Act increased the Annual Security Report crime reporting categories, and requires colleges and universities receiving federal funds to provide student and employee awareness training on campus sexual violence.
This week, VAWA’s final regulations went into effect after several months of negotiated rulemaking, and request for public comments . While the final regulations have only just gone into effect, colleges and universities have been expected to make good faith efforts to comply with these new requirements in the interim (). Compliance now requires schools to follow the letter and not just the spirit of the law. This Huffington Post article provides a convenient breakdown of what schools must do this year to comply with the regulations and a brief discussion of its significance. Also, see our Campus SaVE Act compliance checklist and rundown of the final regulations, or review our summary of additional requirements under new state legislation.
More and more colleges and universities are turning to judges to oversee campus hearings, especially when they involve sexual assaults, according to this article at Inside Higher Ed. Supporters of the this development argue that judges can serve as impartial and qualified parties to hear these complicated cases. Critics suggest that using judges will make campus hearings more like a courtroom, something the Department of Education has been careful to avoid, since campus hearings provide students an alternative to the legal system. “We’re not in a court, we’re in a hearing about a school’s code, and I think there is a value to not making it like a courtroom,” explained Laura Dunn, the founder and director of a victims’ advocacy group. Another sign of the “professionalization” of campus hearings, according to the article, is the greater role lawyers are playing. Several states have passed or are considering legislation that would allow lawyers to more fully participate in campus proceedings. Despite the push towards greater professionalization, uncertainty still surrounds these developments. Peter Lake, a law professor at Stetson University, told Inside Higher Ed, “I think people are experimenting with a variety of different models, and there are some who think that working with highly professionalized external adjudicators is the right pathway, especially in complex or high-profile cases. It’s uncharted territory. We’re essentially creating a college court system.”
According to a recent study, several factors influence a bystander’s willingness to respond to an incident of cyberbullying in an online forum: the forum’s level of anonymity, the bystander’s relationship to the victim, and the number of people participating. Reported by Inside Higher Ed, the study found that the bigger the group, the greater the anonymity, and the more distant the relationships between the participants, the less likely someone would respond to cyberbullying. “Once online identity is disconnected from offline identity, it can sometimes lead to antisocial online communication,” Nicholas Brody, one of the study’s authors, told Inside Higher Ed. The greater anonymity of online courses reduces participants’ feelings of personal responsibility for intervening. “It comes down to friendship and closeness,” Brody told Inside Higher Ed. “People are going to help out their friends.” Brody suggests that professors who are worried about cyberbullying in their online classes could organize smaller group work and interactions outside of the classroom to encourage students to build relationships with each other. As schools continue to develop their online course offerings, it will be interesting to see how they address sexual violence prevention in these settings.