I’ve blogged about sexual assault on college campuses and the need for comprehensive sexual assault policies that actually work and are implemented before (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for a taste), so here’s some relevant news. The National Association of College and University Attorneys had a conference in Toronto recently and there was a panel discussion on campus sexual assault and harassment policies.
Maureen McClain, a panel member and a lawyer with a San Francisco law firm, warned that colleges and universities need to ensure that they have policies that are “as clear as possible and then…followed carefully” when dealing with sexual assault and harassment investigations.
The panel stressed that colleges and universities can legally be held accountable for failing to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and since having a good policy in place is a part of prevention, it’s necessary for institutions to have and follow a sexual assault and harassment policy. It is also important for them to revisit and possibly even revise their policies yearly.
Monique DiCarlo, the sexual-misconduct-response coordinator at the University of Iowa, said:
It doesn’t mean completely redoing the system all the time, but listening to people who are using the policies to hear their concerns and make parts clearer.
Presenters at the conference stated that nationally judges may begin adopting a broader standard when ruling on lawsuits pertaining to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prevents discrimination based on sex in education. Judges are increasingly holding colleges liable for failing to prevent sexual assault and harassment on campus.
Colleges and universities need to create policies that are accessible, clear and specific to their campuses. These policies are useless if students don’t know about them, so it’s important for institutions to make sure that students are aware of the policy and feel comfortable using them. Furthermore,faculty and staff members need to be trained in responding to student allegations of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is the number one underreported crime on college campuses and we have quite a while to go before colleges and universities take sexual assault seriously and take proactive measures to prevent it from occurring. Prevention can take many forms, and one way is to implement a clear and comprehensive sexual assault policy.