Apr 242015

Men Face High Bar to Claim Discrimination by Campus Sex Assault Tribunals

Alison Frankel
April 22, 2015

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of Manhattan dismissed an anonymous male student’s gender discrimination case against Columbia University and its board of trustees. The student, who was suspended for three semesters after a campus tribunal determined he had engaged in non-consensual sex with an anonymous female student, had contended that Columbia’s investigation and prosecution of the incident violated Title IX, which prohibits universities from gender discrimination. The John Doe student, who said his accuser consented to their encounter in her dorm room bathroom and even provided the condom they used, alleged he was treated unfairly because of Columbia’s atmosphere of heightened sensitivity to women complaining of sexual assault by men.

Judge Furman determined, however, that even if Columbia’s tribunal reached the wrong conclusion in John Doe’s case and even if Doe is right that Columbia’s sexual misconduct disciplinary proceedings have a different impact on men than women, the student didn’t provide enough plausible allegations that Columbia discriminated against him because he is a man. So under the tough pleading standards the U.S. Supreme Court established in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly in 2007 and Ashcroft v. Iqbal in 2009, Furman said, John Doe’s case has to be dismissed.

According to Furman, the same fate has befallen almost all of the other recent cases by men claiming Title IX gender discrimination in campus sex misconduct proceedings. The plaintiff in only one case, Wells v. Xavier University, managed to persuade a federal judge that he adequately pleaded that his tribunal reached the wrong outcome because he is a man. Furman said he reviewed the Wells case – which was cited in John Doe’s brief opposing dismissal – and decided that U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel of Dayton, Ohio, didn’t properly evaluate the complaint under the Twombly and Iqbal pleading standard. John Doe’s lawyers at Nesenoff & Miltenberg had also relied on 1994 precedent from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Yusuf v. Vassar. But the judge agreed with Columbia’s lawyers at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, who argued in their motion to dismiss that the pleading standard the 2nd Circuit used in the Yusuf case no longer applies because of Twombly and Iqbal.

As Furman pointed out (and as the Wall Street Journal and Slate have both recently reported), there is “a growing phenomenon” of suits by men who have been disciplined for sexual misconduct against women in university proceedings. Students can’t bring constitutional due process claims against private schools, so suits against private institutions are likely to allege violations of Title IX.

And based on Judge Furman’s decision, those suits have to figure out how to deal with a quirk of Title IX: Unlike Title VII, the equal employment opportunity provision, Title IX (as it has been interpreted by courts) does not permit plaintiffs to establish discrimination by showing that policies have a “disparate impact” on certain groups. It’s not sufficient, Furman said, to claim that Columbia’s sexual misconduct proceedings disproportionately target male students. Plaintiffs, whether male or female, have to “allege facts sufficient to give rise to an inference that the school intentionally discriminated  because of his or her sex,” Furman said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that men in these Title IX suits have to show that women accused of sexual assault were treated differently than they were in campus tribunals, Furman said. But they do have to raise plausible allegations that the proceedings discriminate against men, perhaps by providing data showing that women are accused of sexual misconduct less often than men alongside statistics showing the gender disparity disappears in other misconduct proceedings.

Judge Furman dismissed the Doe case based only on the complaint, which meant, as he said, that he did not have “to wade into the larger public debates about how colleges and universities adjudicate (and, indeed, whether they even should adjudicate) allegations of sexual misconduct on campus (or) to revisit Columbia’s adjudication by weighing plaintiff’s account of what happened against the account of his accuser.” But as his reference to a March 31 decision by his Manhattan federal court colleague Ronnie Abrams in Yu v. Vassar makes clear, even if men manage to survive dismissal, they still have to come up with evidence that they were treated unfairly because they are men, not just that the proceeding was unfair.

Judge Abrams granted Vassar summary judgment on Title IX claims by a student who cited many of the same supposed procedural problems as John Doe in the Columbia case. She laboriously recited the evidence that had emerged in discovery, but ultimately concluded the male student, Peter Yu, hadn’t come up with proof that gender bias was responsible for any of the alleged flaws in the proceeding, such as explicitly discriminatory statements from members of the tribunal or Vassar officials or statistical evidence showing that men always lose these cases at Vassar, the judge said.

I left messages for John Doe counsel Andrew Miltenberg and Columbia counsel Alan Schoenfeld but didn’t hear back.

Source: http://blogs.reuters.com/alison-frankel/2015/04/22/men-face-high-bar-to-claim-discrimination-by-campus-sex-assault-tribunals/

Apr 232015

Vice President Biden Marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Announcing It’s On Us Progress

Stephen Spector
April 23, 2015

“Violence against women is not a women’s issue alone. It’s a man’s issue as well… So to all of the guys out there—you have to step up. That’s how we can change the culture on campus and around the country to one that understands no means no.”

– Vice President Biden

Today at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Vice President Biden is honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month by sharing an update on the Administration’s efforts to help combat sexual assault, especially on college and university campuses.

President Obama and Vice President Biden have made it a national priority to root out sexual violence and assault wherever it exists, particularly in our schools. Last year, they launched a public awareness and education campaign called It’s On Us, which seeks to empower college students to respond effectively to sexual assault, and to prevent it in the first place.

As part of the Administration’s ongoing effort to combat sexual violence, the Vice President, accompanied by actress Jessica Szohr of the new series “Complications,” is traveling to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to recognize new It’s On Us commitments and progress, and the critical role that students at the University and across the country play in championing the It’s On Us mission.


200,000: More than 200,000 people around the country have taken the It’s On Us pledge, a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.

600: More than 600 It’s On Us events have taken place, including rallies, pledge drives, and campus dialogues.

300: More than 300 campuses have hosted It’s On Us student-led campaigns.

190: More than 190 campuses have created their own public service announcements.


It’s On Us now includes 75 non-profit and private-sector partners that focus on supporting the campaign using digital, television, and alternative strategies. Recent commitments from new partners include:

Funny or Die, a vertically integrated digital studio that creates hilarious content for social platforms, is working to produce creative content and celebrity engagement to create a culture where sexual violence is unacceptable.

Pandora is teaming up with the It’s On Us campaign to spread the word about the importance of bystander intervention, by running a public service announcement that specifically targets 10 million men ages 18-22 on college campuses across the country.

USA Network will be commemorating National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and highlighting the It’s On Us campaign during a special marathon of “Law & Order: SVU” on Sunday, April 26, which focuses on ending campus sexual assault.

Several Greek organizations, including Alpha Chi Rho, Alpha Kappa Lambda, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Sigma Psi Zeta, and Zeta Beta Tau have signed on as partners to the campaign and are working with their local chapters to get the word out about the pledge, host events and trainings, and film public service announcements.

Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/04/23/vice-president-biden-marks-sexual-assault-awareness-month-announcing-it-s-us-progres

Apr 232015

Rolling Stone Gang Rape Story Retracted: UVA Dean Breaks Her Silence

Hanna Rosin
April 22, 2015

Nicole Eramo is the associate dean of students who heads the sexual misconduct board at the University of Virginia. She was also the villain of the now-infamous and recently retracted Rolling Stone story about the gang rape of a freshman named Jackie that never happened at a UVA fraternity.

In Rolling Stone’s piece, Eramo was painted as the first-line responder who never really responded. She was the one who, when she heard Jackie’s story, tried to steer her away from reporting it, supposedly to protect the university’s reputation. Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely never spoke to Eramo, but she did put words in her mouth, presumably told to her by Jackie.

“If Dean Eramo was surprised at Jackie’s story of gang rape, it didn’t show,” Rubin Erdely wrote, and then topped it off with an all-too-perfect quote. When Jackie asked the dean why UVA doesn’t publish statistics on sexual violence, “she says Eramo answered wryly, ‘Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school.’ ”

Eramo has been silent since the story came out. Today, she issued “An Open Letter to Rolling Stone,” in which Eramo condemns “the article’s false and grossly misleading portrayal of the counseling and support that I provided to Jackie, including encouraging her to report” and arranging for Jackie to meet with detectives. She also accuses Erdely of having “purposefully omitting information that she received during interviews” with UVA’s president and students that did not fit “her preconceived narrative” about the university’s callous response to a horrific crime.

Most viscerally, Eramo details how the debacle impacted her personally.

Using me as the personification of a heartless administration, the Rolling Stone article attacked my life’s work. I saw my name dragged through the mud in the national press…protestors showed up at my office, demanding I be fired. Perhaps most egregious and shocking were the emails I received expressing hope that I be killed or raped, and commenting that they hoped I had a daughter so that she could be raped. Equally distressing…is the fact that while the false allegations in the magazine were being investigated, the University had no choice but to remove me from working with the students with whom I had spent so much time building a relationship, forcing them to “start over” with someone else.

Whatever Eramo decides to do in the future, her name will likely be “forever linked” to the article, as she writes. Even now, if you do a Google Image search of her name, you will see the Rolling Stone caricature of her smiling in her office as protests rage outside.

Source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2015/04/22/rolling_stone_gang_rape_story_retracted_uva_dean_breaks_her_silence.html

Apr 232015

Louisiana Colleges and Police Need to Work Together, Share Info

Emily Lane
April 22, 2015

In the national fight to curb sexual assault on and around college campuses, one Louisiana lawmaker is pushing for state universities and law enforcement agencies to improve lines of communication with each other and share more information.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans said colleges and universities might be aware of a assault-prone part of town and a local police department might be aware of a sexual assault incident reported at a fraternity house, for instance — but the two groups would never know.

Senate Bill 255, sponsored by Morrell, is a combination of mandates and guidelines for universities that require them to keep better data about sexual assault incidents and sets parameters for policies that give alleged victims options and informs them of those options.

“Louisiana universities, like many, have a sexual assault problem on their campuses,” said Morrell, after the Senate Education committee advanced his bill to the full Senate Wednesday (April 22). “(We’re doing) anything we can do to make sure there’s a fair system for alleged victims to receive services and collect data to (learn) how to better provide services.”

The bill mandates every higher education institution conduct a voluntary sexual assault climate survey and report the results to the Legislature and the governor.

It calls for the creation of law enforcement protocols for investigations, notification and evidence preservation and requires training on such protocols and sexual assault laws. It encourages, but does not require, law enforcement agencies in the parish where the school is located to enter into a memorandum of understanding — a sort of nonbinding contract — regarding the proposed information sharing and sexual assault policies.

The bill requires every school to choose a relative number of “confidential advisors,” who act as liaisons between victims, the school and possibly law enforcement. These advisors — who can work in human resources, at heath center or in other departments — must inform the victim of their options for both criminal and student interdisciplinary measures.

Amnesty for students who may be reluctant to report their victimization for fear of getting in trouble for under age drinking, for example, would allow them to come forward without getting risking punishment.

Morrell consulted campus sexual assault panel he created to come up with the legislation and other related bills. Senate Resolution 31, which also advanced out of the Senate education committee Wednesday, sets up a task force to study college and university disciplinary process for campus rape and sexual assault.

Source: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/campus_sexual_assault_colleges.html

Apr 222015

Letter from the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence to Members of Congress

April 23, 2015

Dear Members of Congress:

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), along with XXX undersigned national, state and local anti-violence organizations, writes to express our grave concern about The Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee’s (FSPAC or “FratPAC”) misguided and dangerous position on sexual assault. As the voice in Washington for the 56 state and territorial sexual assault coalitions and 1300 rape crisis centers working to end sexual violence and support survivors, we are concerned that FSPAC’s approach is not only tone deaf but threatens to undermine the protections of Title IX and the critical progress policy makers, universities, advocates, students and survivors are making to end the scourge of sexual assault on campus.

NAESV finds it especially problematic that FSPAC is pursuing this wrongheaded course during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and we ask you to take a stand for and with survivors by 1) strengthening rape crisis centers who provide services for survivors and prevention for our communities; 2) supporting the budget request of the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and strengthening their ability to support campus survivors’ needs and improve campus responses to sexual assault; and 3) rejecting FSPAC’s recommendations to defer any campus judicial proceeding until completion of criminal adjudication (investigation and trial).
Sexual assault advocates, who support and assist survivors every day, know that survivors are more willing to come forward when they know they aren’t required to speak with police. NAESV and Know Your IX conducted an internet survey in March 2015. Almost 90% of survivors responded “yes,” they should retain the choice whether and to whom to report. When asked their concerns if reporting to police were mandatory, 79% said, “this could have a chilling effect on reporting,” while 72% were concerned that “survivors would be forced to participate in the criminal justice system/go to trial.”

One survivor summed up many recurring themes in the open responses, saying: “When I reported to campus officials, I was not ready to press charges and if I had been forced to report to the police I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I wouldn’t have told anyone because I would have felt like I had even less control of myself. Having the decision be my own and on my own time made it a lot safer and healthier.”

We must acknowledge the fact that 5% or less of reported sexual assaults will be brought to trial. Moreover, waiting for a case to go to trial could mean that a perpetrator graduates without consequences, while the survivor drops out of school to avoid contact with the perpetrator. Additionally, criminal justice and campus proceedings are fundamentally different processes. Campuses are obligated to determine whether or not a student violated school policy and to protect the civil rights of the victim. The recent Campus SaVE amendments to the Clery Act included in VAWA 2013 require schools to inform survivors of their option to report to police, or not to report, and provide assistance in either case. There is no reason to conflate the two responses or suggest that one should wait for the other. Given these realities, it is deeply irresponsible for FSPAC to advocate that a trial occur before campuses contemplate disciplinary proceedings against those accused of sexual assault. Schools can suspend, expel, or impose myriad other sanctions for violations ranging from theft to drug use to physical assaults. But, unlike sexual misconduct, due process concerns are rarely raised in these cases.

Public policy responses to sexual violence must keep sight of survivor empowerment as a first principle. Rape is the literal negation of a survivor’s voice and agency. No matter what else, our response must be to help reverse that violence. An important way to do that is to expand options for survivors, rather than limiting them. Sadly, some responsible for creating safe environments for students and responding to sexual assault claim they struggle to distinguish between assault and drunken, regrettable sex. We ask Congress to see this claim for the distraction that it is. In truth, the vast majority of sexual violence incidents are never reported to anyone in authority, whether through the university or criminal justice systems. Furthermore, false reporting rates for sexual assault are low and consistent with other crimes. Training is clearly needed to improve the campus process and ensure that all students have a right to their education, free from sexual violence; however, weakening schools’ ability to address sexual misconduct and student civil rights does nothing to remedy the incidence of sexual violence on campus; it only acts as a method for allowing these violations to continue without consequence.

We believe the policies FSPAC is advocating would discourage survivors from reporting their assaults, which impedes healing, helps rapists stay hidden, and jeopardizes student safety. We do want you to take action for survivors this April, and we urge you to support:

• Full funding at $40 million for the Sexual Assault Services Program at the Office on Violence Against Women to address waiting lists for direct sexual assault services;
• $44.4 million for the Rape Prevention & Education Program at the CDC; and
• A $31 million funding increase for OCR to continue bringing about lasting change on campuses, including holding schools accountable and making sure that student survivors receive counseling, tutoring, and other vital accommodations.

We all have a leadership role to play in ending sexual violence on our campuses and throughout our country. We call on Congress, as well as fraternities and sororities, to stand up for community safety and survivors by supporting funding to address sexual violence, strong campus disciplinary processes, and a strong criminal justice response.


Apr 212015

Oberlin “Feminists” Accuse Christina Hoff Sommers of Supporting Rapists

April 20, 2015

Last week at Georgetown, Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at an event and some students responded with trigger warnings and exclaimed that her mere presence constituted “violence”.

Tonight she is speaking at Oberlin College, a bastion of liberalism in northern Ohio. She is a guest of the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians.

Below see some of the same type of rhetoric, including accusations of supporting rapists.

Two days before this event, the Oberlin Review posted this editorial, complete with a “trigger warning”, in anticipation of Sommers’ visit.

UPDATE: below is the announcement made to the audience about the “safe space” alternate event. Note how they mock with air quotes that some people in the audience were present to hear both sides of the issue.

Sommers does not deny that sexual assault is a problem. But she does contend that a recent study inaccurately and grossly overstates the number of victims, and that there is a danger in using questionable data to combat the problem.

For example, if a married couple has been drinking and then have consensual sex, that is an instance of rape according to the study.

For simply pointing out these flaws in the study, radical feminists have rabidly attacked Sommers and attempted to silence her. According to them, her mere presence at the university to speak constitutes a “rape culture”. All because she contends that statistical reporting of rape should be accurate and use common sense.

To “prove” that Sommers supports rapists, they actually posted a couple of her tweets. Behold the rape culture:

On April 13, Sommers tweeted: “The wage gap is a myth. So is ‘rape culture’ & claims of gender bias in science. But women’s grievance industry goes on.”

On April 15, Sommers also tweeted: “Looking forward to visiting Oberlin next week. I see my talk is already the focus of a lively campus discussion.” She shared OCRL’s event page with all of her followers on Twitter, after which many of them flocked to the page to defend her viewpoint.

Wow, I’m convinced. She looked forward to visiting Oberlin and shared the event.


Not surprisingly, many in the audience were quite rude and frequently interrupted Sommers. Many students sat in the audience with duct tape over their mouths, inferring that Sommers’ mere presence was an attempt to silence them. Ironically, by labeling her a “rapist supporter” and interrupting her, they were actually striving to silence her.

For most in the audience, rational discussion of facts is not even welcome.

Example: Sommers discussed the myth of the wage gap and explained that, in general, women choose to follow career paths that pay less than men. More women choose to study arts and humanities, while men are more likely to study engineering and science. Since there is more of a need and demand in the job market for technological expertise, people (men AND women) who go into engineering will earn more than people (men AND women) who major in art history, for example.

When she suggested that women could earn more and close the wage gap by changing their majors to something like engineering, many in the audience jeered loudly and exclaimed “Don’t tell me what to do!!”.

Don’t give me facts. Just shut up. That’s how Sommers was responded to.

At the end, Sommers took questions. All but one were obviously hostile to her presence, and she took questions from an equal number of male and female attendees. A female student behind me exclaimed “Oh look! She called on a boy!” every single time she took a question from a male student, even though every one of the male questions she received was equally as hostile to her as the female questions.

After taking questions from three women in a row, she took the final question from a man. The student behind me again remarked “Oh look another question from a boy!”.

I politely asked her, “But weren’t the last three girls?”

She glared at me and said, “This is an event about FEMINISM!”

After her discussion with the male student was finished, the same student said to me, “It’s offensive that you said to me “Should she only call on pretty girls?””.

“That’s not what I said. I asked weren’t the last three questions from girls? You misunderstood, miss.”

She continued to accuse me. I didn’t bother to inform her that I was recording the speech and had our words on tape. It wouldn’t have mattered.

Overall, it was a saddening experience that is all too common these days. Too often, we see a refusal to engage in a mutually beneficial debate of facts and solutions. If someone’s opinion differs, even slightly, they must be demonized, attacked and shouted down. They must be falsely accused of hate speech and supporting rape.

That attitude was certainly on display last night in Oberlin.

UPDATE: More posters from the event are below.

Source: http://www.thirdbasepolitics.com/oberlin-feminists-accuse-christina-hoff-sommers-of-supporting-racists/

Apr 212015

Brown Task Force Recommends Conflict of Interest Safeguards for Sexual Assault Cases

Tyler Kingkade
April 15, 2015

A task force at Brown University has recommended changes in the way the school handles sexual assault cases, following a steady stream of criticism of the university’s sexual misconduct policies over the past year.

The recommendations include a new conflict of interest policy, as well as a suggestion that the school help students involved in sexual assault cases acquire attorneys to represent them on a pro bono basis as a way to mitigate any unfair advantages during campus adjudications. The task force released its final report last week at the Providence, Rhode Island, campus.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do does boil down to levels of trust, I can acknowledge that,” Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown, told The Huffington Post.

Brown is currently under a federal civil rights investigation for how it handles sexual assaults. Students at the university protested in recent months after Brown dropped charges against a student who was accused of slipping a date rape drug into a woman’s drink at a party. The accused student’s father sits on the school’s governing board. In that case, Brown also outsourced the toxicology testing to a lab that botched the results.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/15/brown-sexual-assault-cases_n_7066126.html?cps=gravity_2439_-120754565733024799

William McCormick III, a former student, also accused the school in a lawsuit of denying him due process and pressuring him out of school after he was accused of sexual assault by the daughter of a wealthy donor. The case was settled out of court.

The university has always said that is not unfairly influenced in sexual misconduct cases. It did so again last month, prior to the task force’s final report.

“Recent suggestions of a ‘thumb on the scale’ of justice because one student, whose name has been circulated on campus although not in the press, is the son of a trustee are completely false,” Brown President Christina Paxson wrote on March 19. “There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone improperly influenced the investigation or adjudication process. I would not allow that to occur. The members of Brown’s governing body are aware of this and know that it would not be tolerated.”

Nevertheless, the task force recommended several steps that appear to be in direct response to the circumstances of several sexual assault cases.

“There’s better clarity around our conflict of interest policy now, ensuring cases of sexual violence adjudication aren’t being influenced by who a student knows or who a student is related to,” said Katie Byron, a student member of the task force.


The task force recommended establishing “standard protocols and practices” for any future toxicology exams. Byron said this suggestion was a result of the date rape drugging case.

The recommendations also ask the university to look for evidence of other similar conduct by a student who is accused of sexual assault, which comes after a Huffington Post investigation found one student wasn’t expelled until a third alleged male victim came forward.

Brown launched the task force in spring 2014, following demonstrations on campus over the handling of Lena Sclove’s sexual assault case, which prompted the government investigation. In Sclove’s case, the university found her alleged assailant, whose father is a donor, responsible for sexual assault and physical harm. The university reduced the initial recommendation of a two-year suspension down to one year.

Under the task force’s recommendations, if a “decision-maker wishes to modify the recommended sanction he or she will meet with the hearing panel members before doing so.” The task force said students found guilty of assault should also no longer be able to count the semester in which a hearing is held toward a two-semester suspension, as was the case with Sclove’s alleged assailant.

Carey said that in practice, the school has already been recommending attorneys for students in sexual misconduct cases to level the playing field with wealthier students. Making that a policy is “not hard to do, and is the right thing to do,” Carey said.

Emily Schell, a Brown student activist, applauded the incorporation of pro bono lawyers to “address differences in class,” but said she still worries about potential bias by administrators — even if it’s not “malevolent.”

While students who spoke with HuffPost said there are still ares where they have questions, many were satisfied overall with the document.

“My general impression is that we’re finally getting somewhere,” said Alice Hamblett, a sophomore at Brown.

The university recently hired its first Title IX coordinator, and the task force recommended centralizing processes and services for sexual violence within that office. It also urged the school to move toward a single investigator model for sexual assault cases, and appoint a standing advisory committee of faculty, staff and students to review progress on these issues every three years.

Carey said he anticipates that the university may expand on its reports of sexual misconduct adjudication outcomes, noting how Yale University discloses detailed semiannual reports.

“They’ve done great things, and they’re good model for us and other institutions,” Carey said of Yale. Providing similar annual reporting with “transparency and context are critically important” for Brown, he added.

The task force recommendations still need final approval from top administrators at Brown, and Paxson has until the end of the semester to issue a formal response.

Apr 202015

Harvard’s Wacky Campus-Sex Survey

Naomi Schaefer Riley
April 20, 2015

‘Since you have been a student at Harvard University has a student or someone employed by or otherwise associated with Harvard . . . continued to ask you to go out, get dinner, have drinks or have sex even though you said no?” If so, you may be a victim of sexual misconduct or sexual assault or sexual harassment.

Which of those, if any, applies is not entirely clear, and the 67-part anonymous survey of Harvard students that included this question seems like it was intended to obscure more than enlighten.

Recommended by the school’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Assault, the survey is, according to Harvard’s president, “part of our effort to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and assault.”

All degree-seeking students received a link and have until May 3 to complete it. But before they do, they have to read — you guessed it — a trigger warning.

“Some of the language used in this survey is explicit and some people may find it uncomfortable, but it is important that we ask the questions in this way so that you are clear what we mean. If responding to this survey is distressful, information on how to get help if you need it appears at the top of each page and at the end of the survey. Personal benefit from participating in this survey is unlikely.”

Well, except that you’ll get a $5 Amazon gift card. Shouldn’t make too much of a dent in the endowment, I guess.

What’s distressful about the survey, however, is not the explicit language — though it does seem a little creepy to get a survey from the president of the university asking about your experiences with oral sex. It’s the fact that the results will no doubt add to the piles of bad data already out there on campus sexual assault.

The “one in four” and “one in five” statistics about women being sexually assaulted on campuses that are trotted out so regularly are simply the results of survey administrators failing to distinguish exactly what is sexual assault, notes Shep Melnick. A professor of political science at Boston College, Melnick says “these surveys can be used really helpfully to get a handle on the extent of the problem or further muddy it on the basis of faulty information.”

“If they were really serious,” notes Melnick, “they would say, ‘here is the definition of rape, here is forceful sexual assault, here’s a form of misconduct, here’s harassment.’ ” Instead, the Harvard survey simply lists a bunch of bad things and then asks — yes or no — whether any of these has happened to you.

Once you get past the basic demographic data — the bit asking students to identify their gender offers eight possible answers — come the questions about experiences.

And the survey offers this important note: “Sexual assault and sexual misconduct refer to a range of behaviors that are nonconsensual or unwanted. These behaviors could include remarks about physical appearance or persistent sexual advances.

“These could also include threats of force to get someone to engage in sexual behavior such as nonconsensual or unwanted touching, sexual penetration, oral sex, anal sex or attempts to engage in these behaviors.”

So which is which? What is sexual assault? What is sexual misconduct? What is harassment? And is there any category for simply obnoxious behavior?

As one graduate student noted about the questions: “It also seems to me that the main point of possible confusion is that ‘sexual assault’ and ‘sexual harassment’ appear multiple times in no particular order. I had to go pretty slowly not to accidentally say I had witnessed ‘assault’ when all I had seen was a jerk guy at a party harassing someone.”

Indeed, there are questions about people tweeting offensive sexual remarks thrown in with questions about anal penetration.

And, oddly, nowhere in the whole document does the word “rape” appear. Perhaps that’s because rape is a word that respondents might be a little more careful about using.

But the school isn’t trying to understand a problem. It’s trying to cover its behind. These surveys have been recommended by the Office of Civil Rights, and schools can point to them if they are ever investigated by the feds.

The university also seems to be casually adopting the “affirmative consent” doctrine that has become popular on campuses around the country.

Take this question: “Since you have been a student at Harvard University has someone had contact with you involving penetration or oral sex without your active, ongoing, voluntary agreement?”

Active, ongoing and voluntary? One can only imagine the contracts Harvard Law Students are drawing up as we speak.

The Harvard administration seems to be on a fishing expedition. “How likely do you think it is that you will experience sexual assault or sexual misconduct during off campus-university sponsored events?” Um, calls for speculation, your honor. So, by the way does, “Have you seen a drunk person heading off for what looked like a sexual encounter?”

This survey is so badly written that one wonders whether its results would even pass muster in the kind of peer-reviewed journals in which Harvard professors regularly publish. But then the goal here isn’t science. It’s politics.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Source: http://nypost.com/2015/04/20/harvards-wacky-campus-sex-survey/

Apr 202015

A Call for Mandatory Consent Education in California High Schools

Morgan Baskin
April 18, 2015

Last December, student activists from San Diego State University and the University of California Santa Barbara and Berkeley published a list of “Take Back the Campus” demands to California’s universities, calling for increased compliance with federal consent education standards and more transparency in sexual assault data.

The students, part of a network of sexual assault survivors and activists tackled a third issue: implementing consent education. They are calling for public high schools across California to clearly explain what a healthy sexual relationship looks like.

Adaptation of those policies would follow the landmark “yes means yes” affirmative consent bill passed in the state last year that requires college students to “affirmatively, consciously and voluntarily” agree to sex.

Critics of the law call its definition of consent too vague to widely protect victims.

Savannah Badalich, a survivor of sexual assault and founder of campaign against sexual assault 7000 in Solidarity, says that affirmative consent education in college is too late for many students who are away from home for the first time and might not have had an education in what consent really means.

Source: http://college.usatoday.com/2015/04/18/a-call-for-mandatory-consent-education-in-california-high-schools/

“The only thing I remember about my health class was, in terms of sex ed, was one week they had us watch this old video with Ben Affleck and Jessica Alba about birth control. It was ridiculous, I knew nothing about what you’re supposed to do and not supposed to do in a relationship, how you ask for consent, what consent was,” the senior at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), says. “I thought you settled a contract like something with legal jargon until I was assaulted and started doing this work.”

As of Nov. 2013, only 13 states had mandatory dating violence or sexual health education in public high schools. Even then, the courses can be notoriously problematic for their stereotypical portrayals of college students.

The Center for Disease Control reports that 19% of undergraduate women have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college.

In early January, Badalich got a call from California Senator Kevin de León, who told her he was interested in writing a bill mandating a reformed version of sex education in high schools to include consent information.

“He was like, ‘hey, we’re actually thinking of writing this, would you let us know what you’re looking for?’ I said bare minimum [mandated consent education] in high schools. And he said, ‘ok, well we can make it for a high school graduation requirement. They have a health graduation requirement and we could add that to their health requirement.’ We love that,” Badalich says.

More importantly, Badalich says she believes in the bill because de León turned to her for help with its language and intent—survivors know best what survivors look for in anti- sexual assault laws.

She points to a bill authored by California Assemblyman Mike Gatto and proposed to the assembly last year that would require universities to file police reports on behalf of students who reported a sexual assault to the university.

“That’s terrifying! I wouldn’t want to go to the police with my sexual assault and youth of color don’t even want to go near the police. For many students of color and undocumented students, their only real justice is through the university,” Badalich says.

Senator de León’s office did not return a request for a comment on his bill.

When it comes to the actual curriculum of consent education, Badalich says it boils down to one thing: knowing what a dysfunctional relationship looks like.

The kind of information she’d like to see in schools, she says, could be taught to elementary school students.

“This sounds silly, but in elementary school you could talk about consent by talking about Hot Cheetos. Say, sometimes you want to share your Hot Cheetos and sometimes you don’t want to—you can’t be mad at someone because they don’t want to share their Hot Cheetos.”

In February, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), introduced the Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015 to Congress. The bill would strengthen national sexual violence education requirements for high school students.

“Consent education isn’t about talking to survivors directly. It’s about talking to the communities so they know how to support survivors,” Badalich says.
Morgan Baskin is a student at George Washington University and a spring 2015 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent.

Apr 202015

Stanford to Ban Students Found Guilty of Sexual Assault

Akane Otani
April 20, 2015

At most colleges, if you’re found responsible for sexual assault, you may be suspended. But at Stanford University, you’ll likely be booted off campus permanently: Starting this fall, officials recommend making expulsion the default punishment for sexual assault.

“Going forward, if a Stanford student is found responsible for sexual assault as it is defined in university policy, the expected sanction in such cases should be permanent separation from the university—expulsion,” a task force of faculty, students, and staff wrote in a report published this month. Panels reviewing a student’s case will be expected to consider expulsion first before moving on to less serious punishments, the report added.

The policy recommendation is a somewhat unusual one for a college. Schools have been quick to denounce sexual assault, with many overhauling their policies to comply with Department of Education’s guidelines and many others publicly announcing their commitment to eradicating sexual assault from their campuses. Yet few have gone as far as Stanford in recommending expulsion, first and foremost, as the norm for sexual assault cases. Most remain intentionally vague about punishments: Harvard says (pdf) community members who’ve committed sexual assault may face “sanctions up to, and including, termination, dismissal, or expulsion, as determined by the appropriate officials.” Yale, similarly, says panels “may recommend penalties up to and including expulsion.”

Stanford’s proposed policy has the potential to send a strong message to both sexual assault victims and would-be perpetrators, says Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center.

“It tells victims on campus that Stanford takes this issue very seriously, and they won’t just put someone on probation, or make them write a letter of apology, or do a lot of these ineffective punishments,” Bruno says. “What they’ll do is come down as hard as they possibly can [on] the person who is found to have perpetrated this crime.”

There are compelling, albeit thorny, reasons why schools do not always recommend expulsion—reasons that have nothing to do with mounting criticisms of the campus adjudication process. In the past, many victim-rights advocates have said rules that push expulsion may discourage students from reporting sexual assault to officials. By taking complainants’ choices out of their hands, the officials fear even fewer people will come forward about what’s already an underreported crime.

In recent years, schools that have expelled students over sexual assault have also been sued. “If someone is guilty of rape, expulsion is sort of a laughably insufficient penalty, but if a school gets the wrong person, and they go with expulsion—the most severe sanction that a school can impose—they’ve just done the worst possible thing they can do,” says Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has watched campus sexual assault policy closely.

The proponents behind the new expulsion recommendations at Stanford acknowledged the new sanctions were likely to be “the most controversial recommendation” in their report. The rule “has inspired dozens of heated debates in our conversations, town halls, feedback forms and rallies,” two seniors on the task force, Elizabeth Woodson and Benjy Mercer-Golden, wrote in the campus newspaper.

Stanford’s recommended policy (pdf) includes a number of protections for the accused. Panels must unanimously agree to expel a student, whereas for less severe punishments, only two of three panel members have to agree to the sanction. To make sure decision-makers are impartial, the task force recommends undergraduates—who may have only “a couple degrees of separation” between the accused and the complainant—be excluded from the panels hearing sexual assault cases. Shibley, who believes that “as long as colleges are in the business, there’s not going to be an ideal way for them to handle these cases,” described the recommendations as “surprisingly thoughtful.”

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-20/stanford-decides-to-ban-students-found-guilty-of-sexual-assault