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Information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have a legal problem, consult your institutional counsel or an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. Information and views presented in this blog are solely those of the individual contributors and not their employers.

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New Clery amendments released

The amendments to the Clery Act concerning how institutions should report and respond to sexual assault have been released. Among the most notable changes are the requirement that institutions compile statistics and adopt policies related to dating violence, stalking, and domestic violence. Also the amendments stipulate that both accuser and accused should be allowed to have an advisor (attorney or non-attorney) present at campus disciplinary hearings.

The new report also addresses some administrators' concern that the new reporting requirements will be cost prohibitive, as well as the lack of a definition of consent in the new regulations.

These rules take effect July 2015 but the U.S. Department of Education is calling on institutions to make a good faith effort to implement the provisions immediately.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter released this summer, the DOE addressed confusion over the added categories of dating violence, domestic abuse, and stalking and indicated that institutions were not obliged to modify statistics from the past two years to reflect these new categories. These changes should be reflected in statistical reporting moving forward.



California's Affirmative Consent Law Signed 

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed the Affirmative Consent bill.  As discussed in the Chronicle, the law "explicitly requires colleges and universities that receive state funds to define consent in students’ sexual encounters in terms of 'yes means yes' rather than the traditional 'no means no.'"


It's on us … to make a difference

You might have seen the news about the White House Initiative, It's On Us .  To learn more, go to the White House Blog.   

The campaign promotes individual and group pledges to participate in a national campaign aimed at ending sexual assaults on college campuses.  Please join the campaign by signing up and taking action on your campus.


Does athletic culture contribute to higher rates of sexual assault and substance abuse?

Recent headlines regarding sexual assault and domestic abuse again have brought player behavior in professional and intercollegiate sports to the fore. With the suspension of Ray Rice of the NFL for viciously punching his wife and Jameis Winston in trouble for misogynistic behavior (earlier this year we commented on his sexual asault investigation), the larger question is whether the celebrity status of athletes condones a secret and shameful culture permissive of sexual assault and abuse?

Research has established that substance abuse (namely alcohol) contributes to higher rates of sexual assault. Additionally, research has established a trend of high drinking rates among student-athletes, and media stories like the ones above have illuminated a culture of sexual abuse and assault that is more prevalant among athletes than the public at-large. With this, I wonder if on college campuses with a strong "athletic culture" are there higher rates of substance abuse and sexual assault among the student body?

In a nascent research project, I am examining Clery data related to substance abuse and sexual assault among institutions classified at the highest tier, Football Bowl Subdivision, and the less competitive Football Championship Subdivision. To operationalize "athletic culture" I will rank institutions according to the ratio of money spent on athletics versus academics. (The Wall Street Journal recently did its own analysis of college football spending.) Along with other factors, I hope to establish that on campuses that strongly support athletics in relation to academics, this culture spills over to the general student body. I will be presenting my preliminary findings at the Education Law Association's annual meeting in November. I look forward to your feedback.


Columbia University Issues Revised Sexual Harassment Guidelines: Students Excluded From Hearing Panels

Columbia University recently issued revised gender-based misconduct policies applicable to students. A link to the revised policies is available here. An aspect of the revised policies especially of note is that student conduct hearing panels will typically be composed only of specially trained university employees, specifically student affairs administrators. In addition, the policy states that, times, individuals with special skills and knowledge such as attorneys or retired judges may be included on panels. As colleges and universities wrestle with Title IX compliance, an issue that has arisen is the composition of hearing panels that adjudicate student-on-student sexual harassment claims. In particular, questions have arisen regarding the extent to which students should participate on such panels as hearing officers. Columbia has moved away from having students as a part of these student conduct panels. Given the pressure to ensure conformity with Title IX requirements, the decision to exclude students as officers on hearing panels dealing with sexual harassment claims may well be followed by other colleges and universities.