One of the key campus safety issues for colleges and universities, rape and sexual assault, often has vague or missing policies regarding how to proceed with sexual misconduct procedures.
To help bring this problem to light, last spring, the U.S. Department of Education sent out a letter to colleges and universities nationwide, telling administrators what the department expected the schools to do when students filed reports of sexual misdeeds. The new procedures guide schools’ implementation of Title IX, and lack of compliance could mean a loss of federal funding–a dangerous threat in a time when education costs are rapidly rising and education funds are being cut.
This is why the topic of the “13th Annual Linda B. Floyd Campus Safety Conference,” held last month, was about how to comply with Title IX’s requirements. The topic varies from year to year, and strives to focus on current or “hot” issues.
The conference brought nationally-recognized experts together to speak about the nuances of compliance with Title IX, and will help teach what administrators from other schools’ are doing. The conference allowed them to have difficult and important conversations that are often pushed aside.
Linda Floyd says that “dealing with university and law enforcement officials was at times frustrating [and] there was often resistance from schools because officials felt the sessions were trying to pin blame on schools for violence on campuses.” Fortunately, that attitude changed as they saw the focus was to be education on safety issues, and has had a growing impact for raising awareness of safety on campuses.
Of the schools attending, including Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia, each university official will thoroughly review the school’s policies and procedures to figure out what, if anything, needs to be changed.
Four important changes last spring’s letter from the Department of Education highlights:
- To allow both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators the right to appeal any findings
- To require early notification to the Title IX coordinator and a victim’s advocate of any reports of sexual violence (a broad term covering everything from harassment to date rape)
- To urge campus groups to “please report, please report, please report”
- To speak with faculty members, because often times can be the first person a student would seek if they had a problem, and need to be sure the faculty is sensitive to the situation and reports it to the correct people
However, there are still some unresolved issues with the specifics of compliance. One issue is that the letter mandates university involvement in all reports of sexual misconduct, even if the incidents occur off-campus. This could be problematic because if it happens in a jurisdiction that does not know that school needs to be informed, the school would be penalized.
In the past, conferences have dealt with things such as hazing and alcohol in fraternities and sororities, mental health issues, a loss of civility on campuses and crisis management.
One can only hope that the continuing of this conference, in combination with other conferences, will begin to push more colleges and universities to focus on their sexual misconduct procedures.