Last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights broadened its Title IX investigation of 55 schools to include 60 colleges and universities. Basically, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance; this list in particular is making news because it highlights schools that possibly violated the law’s requirements around sexual violence.
The good news is that the list’s release has spotlighted campus responses to sexual assault and underscored it as a major issue at schools nationwide. How are students and administrators saying NO MORE? Here’s a snapshot of news-making reactions at three major schools.
As part of the recent Title IX inquiry into their handling of sexual assault complaints, the college moved to ban underground frats and publicized a Checklist of Action showing how they handle sexual assault cases. But this spring, the student government drafted a referendum asking the school to reverse its decision about frats. Out of 1,800 students, 1,000 voted and 70 percent supported the motion, underscoring the complicated relationship between Greek life and sexual misconduct.
From the School:
At Amherst’s Commencement last week, College President Carolyn Martin (refreshingly) addressed the issues head-on: “Some of you found yourselves less well-served by the college than you had a right to expect … You have not only done well academically — you have helped inspire a national movement to end sexual assault on campuses,” she said.
In October, student groups circulated a petition asking administrators to release information about campus sexual assaults and their resolution. A Columbia student blog later conducted an in-depth exploration of assault and the college’s response to the cases; in April, 23 students filed a federal complaint against the school alleging that it failed to protect victims of sexual violence. Many survivors shared their stories, and The New York Times visited campus to profile several activists. Meanwhile, names of alleged rapists have appeared scribbled on bathroom walls throughout campus, a kind of vigilante justice.
From the School:
This spring, University President Lee Bollinger announced several administrative changes, including the expansion of a 24-7 rape crisis center at the school, increased staffing for their office of Sexual Violence Response, and the addition of Title IX investigators on campus. Columbia also launched a website, Sexual Respect, chronicling the improvements. “Columbia is rightly known as the place of strong and deeply held core academic and community values. We have to deal with the issues of sexual assault and related misconduct consistent with those values,” he said.
Harvard is also under review for Title IX violations. Earlier in May, CBS news reported that many alumni refuse to donate to the school until it does more to address claims of sexual assault on campus. A Harvard Crimson survey revealed that 12 percent of graduating women say they were sexually assaulted at school; only 16 percent ever reported the assault. In March, an anonymous editorial in the Crimson chronicled the aftermath of an unresolved sexual assault in painful detail and caused a stir on campus. At Commencement, many students marched with a strip of red tape to support Our Harvard Can Do Better, a campus victims’ advocacy group.
From the School:
In light of the Title IX findings, Harvard has organized a sexual assault task force and it has pledged more resources to its Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. “We can, and indeed we must, do better. … We have the responsibility to think in new ways about the best means of preventing sexual assault and ensuring that we are effectively responding to those who have experienced it,” said President Drew Faust.
Want to make an immediate difference at your school? Here are effective tools to create change on campus and beyond. And to see what other schools across the country are doing to spread the word, find us on Facebook.