Cross-posted at The Huffington Post.
Last week I posted about our college President’s suggestion that he is disinclined to believe students who report sexual assault. In response to this, and a series of other problems with our sexual assault policy, the Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition is filing a federal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights and a Clery Act complaint. No longer confident that our President and his administration will agree to implement the best practices for reporting and adjudicating sexual assault, faculty and students are turning to external mechanisms.
These seem like extraordinary measures, but I want to be clear that there is nothing extraordinary about the number of sexual assaults or the mishandling of reports by the Occidental administration. Occidental is no more or less unsafe than the vast majority of residential colleges and universities around the country. College attendance is a risk factor for sexual assault — it raises the likelihood that a person will be a victim of an attempted or completed assault — and Occidental is no different in that regard.
Instead of a sign that Occidental has a uniquely broken system, the activities on campus reflect a commitment to making the college a nationwide model. You see, we do believe that Occidental is different than other colleges. It’s extraordinary. And we’re committed to holding it to a higher standard. We want Occidental to usher in a new era of sexual assault policy and improved campus sexual culture. There will be a day when honest, transparent, and fair reporting and adjudication of sexual assaults will be the norm. When that happens, the approach we find on essentially all college campuses today — a high rate of non-report, pressure on victims to stay quiet, sloppy and biased adjudication, and suppression of sexual assault data — will be considered backward, inhumane, and unjust. That day is coming, and we want Oxy to get there first.
Photo credit: Chris Ellis and the Occidental Weekly.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
oldarney — March 10, 2013
Maybe the problem is the oxy alert system in general... Few things lower moral and cause panic then people getting stabbed and raped. The system seems too easy to misuse... And there is misuse... Hofstra U.
Guest — March 10, 2013
decius — March 10, 2013
Why is your characterization of "Disinclined to believe students who report sexual assault" not a vicious unsupported lie?
pduggie — March 11, 2013
"disinclined to believe students who report sexual assault."
You really think he said that?
When I get called for jury duty, I'm asked If I'm inclined to give MORE weight to something a cop claims or LESS weight to something a cop says. Either answer is WRONG. I need to, as a juror, treat a cops word as as prone to lying or truthfulness as anyone else.
What's wrong with that standard? It CAN be hard to "sort through conflicting accounts in order to provide a clear narrative of what took place." when a cop says a defendant x did Y and otherwise.
And why ignore his other 2 reasons, as some commenters pointed out?
I hope the complaint fails spectacularly.
pduggie — March 11, 2013
The study that link on risk factors was taken from also says
"The risk of being sexually victimized was increased by a number of factors. In our analyses, four factors, however, had the most consistent, statistically significant effect across the various types of sexual victimization: (1) frequently drinking enough alcohol to get drunk; (2) being unmarried; (3) having been a victim of a sexual assault before the current school year began; and (4) for on-campus victimization, living on campus."
pduggie — March 11, 2013
"No longer confident that our President and his administration will agree to implement the best practices for reporting and adjudicating sexual assault, "
But you said Occidental, if they implemented such, would be BETTER than typical other schools. So if these "practices" are really "best", who is practicing them already? "the approach we find on essentially all college campuses today" is not this approach. So where is it the approach?
"best practices" usually means a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark.
So where has this benchmark of alerts for campus sexual assault been implemented, and what have the results been? Why call this "best practices"
Kessel — March 12, 2013
Yes! Thank you for this, Dr. Wade.
pduggie — March 12, 2013
I never like to let things lie, so i've done some additional research
I discovered that NCHERM, the National Center for Higher Education Risk
Management advises many colleges on their legal risk assessments under the Clery act. There's even a 'quiz' or FAQ to handle a bunch of corner cases or uncertainties.
I'll grant that the quiz, written in 2006 by Brett A. Sokolow advises in one item that the right answer to an alter about a 'date rape' might be 1) you don't have to or 2) it could be a good idea because "IN TWO CLERY ACT INVESTIGATIONS, THE DEPARTMENT HAS TAKEN ISSUE WITH THE FAILURE OF THE INSTITUTION TO MAKE A TIMELY WARNING ABOUT DATE RAPE SITUATIONS, TO “GENERALLY HEIGHTEN AWARENESS AND PROMOTE SAFETY.” THE ONLY LIMIT ON THIS IS WHEN MAKING A WARNING WOULD JEOPARDIZE THE VICTIM’S CONFIDENTIALITY."
which is interesting. BUT
I see Brett A. Sokolow actually weighed in on the Occidental case at the chronicle
he says there
1. Off-campus incidents can be a continuing threat to the campus, such that a timely warning is necessary. However, on campus incidents are much more likely to evidence an on-campus continuing threat. 2. Readers should not assume that since that alleged offender and the alleged victim knew each other that there is no continuing threat. Known offenders who are predatory can be a continuing threat that is no less severe than a stranger attack. Stranger danger myths feed erroneous beliefs that known offenders are lesser offenders, or are less dangerous. Data shows they are not.3. Where the offender is known, only a report that includes his or her identifying information would likely be adequate to prevent the threat; To release personally identifiable information at this stage could thwart the investigation and/or lead to the (inappropriate) identification of the victim. 4. In the immediate aftermath of a report, a timely warning may not be accurate until some investigation is conducted. Once it is, a continuing threat may or may not be confirmed. A rush to report does not serve the need to first confirm the source, nature and extent of a threat.
these comments both support in some degree Wade's point, but also that of the administration. It hardly seems clear cut though, and it certainly seems like the guy ought to actually know what a "best practice" is here.
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