Friday, October 24, 2014
In 2011, Vice President Biden delivered his “Dear Colleague” letter to college campuses across the nation. The letter reminded campus administrators of their obligations to protect and provide services to those who experience gender discrimination, including relationship violence. The letter referenced specific protections and obligations incumbent upon colleges and universities to make known to students, including the school’s resources and processes in the event a student experiences violence. Subsequently, the Department of Education announced the investigation of over 50 campuses that may have inadequate campus responses to gender violence. Non-compliance can range from deficient web posting of Title IX resources to failure to provide fair hearings for sexual assault survivors seeking remedies through their schools.
3900 campus sexual assaults were reported in 2012. Many schools saw an increase in reporting which is attributed to more responsive efforts on the part of colleges and universities following announcement of the government investigations including more accurate reporting of campus crime. Nonetheless, sexual assault victims continue to report disrespectful hearings and ineffective resources in both finding help as well as suitable remedies through the university systems.
Student participants in university hearings more often than not describe dissatisfaction with the pre-hearing process and the process itself. Hearings officers may not understand violence and others who dismiss the seriousness of an assault. Same sex students and students of color have complaints that echo victims' complaints of negative experience when they engage the criminal justice system. Stereotypes can permeate the process or enhance of distrust of the process. While many students fail to report sexual assault, under reporting is particularly high with students of color and and gender variant students.
Part two of this post will address recent discussions on how to address campus violence in ways that respect and are meaningful for all targets of campus violence.