Will Title IX Crackdown Make Students Safer? Sexual Violence and Harassment Investigations Pick Up

By Botelho, Stefanie | University Business, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Will Title IX Crackdown Make Students Safer? Sexual Violence and Harassment Investigations Pick Up


Botelho, Stefanie, University Business


The controversy over campus officials' handling of sexual assault complaints may have reached a tipping point in May when the U.S. Department of Educations Office of Civil Rights released a list of 55 colleges under investigation for possible violations of Title IX. Then, 32 more schools were revealed as under investigation, though not for incidents directly related to sexual violence.

While OCRs 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter demanded that campuses investigate sexual assault allegations more aggressively, several universities remain bogged down in antiquated reporting and response systems. Erin Buzuvis, a professor at Western New England University School of Law in Massachusetts, cites a lack of transparency as another issue plaguing universities.

"It's imperative to notify both parties of eventual outcome and appeals," says Buzuvis, also the director of Western New England's Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies. Some universities have found the accused responsible and allowed for a private appeal. Victims would think they were getting justice, yet punishments were never actually given.

Still, these investigations are forcing what most view as long overdue change in sexual assault protocols. Protecting students begins with the proper training of administrators, says Saundra Schuster, a partner at higher ed risk management firm NCHERM Group and a member of the Association of Tide IX Administrators (ATIXA).

"We continue to see many individuals ... who have served in administrative roles for a long period of time and don't respond with a sensitive protocol," she says. "Grievance procedures need to be clear." This includes creating pathways to safe reporting, and faculty should encourage students to come forward. Also, staff must be sensitive to the trauma victims have experienced.

To meet these challenges, some institutions are creating departments tasked with strengthening sexual assault policies. …

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