Progress Report on Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Initiatives
Update: August 26, 2016
This is AU’s fifth update since June 2014, describing recent initiatives to prevent interpersonal and sexual violence and to support survivors in our campus community. Contributions to these efforts have come from across the university – from staff, faculty and student leaders, advocates and peer educators. We owe them our appreciation for the many ways they have strengthened our policies and practices.
AU responded to a Title IX inquiry from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in June 2016. We have provided the information and materials requested about case management and programs to prevent sexual assault and support survivors. The Department’s inquiry is ongoing in both this recent matter and the inquiry opened in April 2015.
Our aim is to mitigate the harm done to survivors of sexual violence, to be fair in our treatment of respondents, and to be conscientious and compliant in all our Title IX activities. We anticipate that OCR’s reviews will advance us toward meeting these objectives.
New Title IX Program Officer
In December 2015, Heather Pratt, J.D., joined the Office of Campus Life as AU’s first, full-time Title IX Program Officer. Ms. Pratt is a seasoned investigator with more than eight years as in-house counsel for corporations in Pennsylvania. She holds certification as a Title IX Coordinator from the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) and is a graduate of The Dickinson School of Law (Penn State). Contact Ms. Pratt at TitleIX@american.edu.
AU’s Deputy Title IX Coordinators for the following groups are:
Undergraduate and Graduate Students: AVP & Dean of Students Rob Hradsky – firstname.lastname@example.org
Faculty, Faculty Administrators and individuals carrying out teaching assignments: Dean of Academic Affairs & Sr. Vice Provost Mary Clark – email@example.com
New Title IX Coordinators Group. AU’s Title IX Program Officer led the creation of a local group made up of representatives from American, Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, Howard, and Trinity Universities. This group meets quarterly to share best practices in the investigation and adjudication of Title IX matters.
Start-Up Needs Assessment. By the end of February 2016, the Title IX Program Officer had conducted roundtable discussions with key campus partners—Student Government, Athletics, Residential Education, and Fraternity & Sorority Life—to open dialogues, solicit feedback about Title IX services, and gauge how well these partners understand how to report incidents of sexual misconduct.
Targeted Training Materials. New training materials on Title IX compliance requirements have been developed for the following AU audiences: faculty, staff (general), Public Safety, Fraternity & Sorority Life, and Residential Education. Each module is designed to address issues unique to its target group.
Online Reporting Form. To facilitate the reporting process, an online reporting form is being added to the Title IX website. Reports made through this form may be submitted anonymously, though choosing this option will necessarily limit investigative follow-up. The form is expected to be live by September 6, 2016.
Title IX Reports at AU
There were 90 unique Title IX reports at AU in 2015-2016.
In 43% of the reports the respondents were identified as AU students.
In cases involving students, where the alleged perpetrators are not affiliated with AU, the Dean of Students Office provides interim measures and support to the student complainants. We know from campus climate survey data that sexual violence continues to be dramatically under-reported, but we think the annual increases in reporting indicate that more members of the AU community understand the reporting process and are seeking assistance.
1. [Some reports may have more than one report type.]
2. [Sexual Exploitation was added as a report type in 2015-16.]
3. [Represents total number of unique report types.]
Reports alleging students as perpetrators may be resolved through adjudication (the conduct process); by implementing interim measures; or through a combination of these interventions in a process that empowers complainants to choose their courses of action. Barring of contact between the parties to a report is a common measure. The table below indicates the number of cases filed with Student Conduct for formal resolution. In some instances, the respondents withdrew from the university before their cases could be adjudicated. Those cases will remain open.
4. [In cases with more than one charge, the more serious charge is represented.]
5. [Sexual Exploitation was added as prohibited conduct in 2015-16.]
In conduct cases the findings (responsible/not responsible) and sanctions are determined by a three-person hearing panel that includes a student and two staff or faculty members. In Title IX cases, both respondents and complainants have the right to appeal.
Of the 11 cases filed last year, several are still in active resolution. In cases that have concluded, where there were findings of responsibility, sanctions have ranged from dismissal to disciplinary probation.
Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG) 2015-2016 Highlights SAWG assesses AU’s work on issues of interpersonal and sexual violence to identify areas for improvement and makes recommendations to the Vice President of Campus Life to ensure that the university’s efforts are comprehensive, effective, and compliant with Title IX and the Campus SaVE Act. The group includes staff, faculty and student leaders. Following are selected highlights from last year’s work:
Completed the EverFi Sexual Assault Diagnostic Inventory to assess AU’s education and training programs and set priorities that include improving options for face-to-face training for faculty and data-sharing with community service providers.
Hosted two Town Halls – one featuring the results of Dr. Jane Palmer’s Biennial Survey of Sexual Violence, Dating Violence, and Bystander Intervention, and the second featuring EverFi consultant Kimberley Timpf’s presentation of the outcomes from the diagnostic inventory. Dr. Palmer’s survey results were also shared with the AU community at a “Data and Donuts” session during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Recommended two changes to the Student Conduct Code – one to incorporate into the Code the Honesty and Confidentiality Policies for Student Conduct, making explicit the exceptions to expectations for confidentiality in Title IX cases; and a second to detail the consequences associated with disciplinary probation.
Recommended changes to the Wellness Center and Public Safetywebsites to streamline content and enhance information on advocacy and support services.
Consulted with Whitman-Walker Clinic to make services more inclusive for LGBTQ students.
Developed a trauma-informed in-service training for Public Safety.
SAWG welcomes suggestions for further ways to enhance AU’s work to educate the campus community about sexual violence, how to report sexual misconduct and support survivors. You may communicate with the committee by emailing SAWG@american.edu.
Wellness Center/OASIS AU’s Victim Advocates (OASIS) meet with students affected by sexual violence to provide support, psychoeducation, and information about campus and community resources. They also support peer educators and collaborate with campus partners to deliver training programs to target audiences that include AU Campus Police, Residential Life, Fraternity & Sorority Life, and student athletes. They work closely with the following community agencies:
Education and Training Programs that Will Continue in 2016-2017 Online Education for New Students. The Wellness Center is continuing to deploy Think About It: Turning Points, providing all new students with a comprehensive foundation in four areas: sex in college, partying smart, sexual violence, and healthy relationships. [ref: https://campusclarity.com]
Online Education for Faculty and Staff. All faculty and staff are required to complete the online program: Preventing Discrimination and Sexual Violence: Title IX, VAWA and Clery Act for Faculty and Staff.
Eagle Summit 2016. 1,318 new AU students participated in consent-based education this summer.
Empower AU at 2016 Welcome Week. Mandatory, peer-led sexual assault prevention workshops, supported by the professional staff in the Wellness Center/OASIS, are continuing under the auspices of the Office of Campus Life during 2016 Welcome Week. Fifty-five (55) workshops are scheduled to accommodate new first-year and transfer students. Students that do not fulfill this requirement will be referred to Student Conduct.
During Welcome Week 2015, 1,732 students were trained in 47 workshops in the Empower AU Pilot Program. Over 500 additional students were trained in make-up workshops, for a completion rate of 95%. After the training, 99.2% of respondents indicated that they understood consent, as defined by the Student Conduct Code; additionally, 99.1% of respondents indicated that they knew concrete strategies to intervene in high-risk situations.
Thank you again to all the members of the AU community who work to eliminate sexual violence in our campus community, keep classmates and colleagues safe, hold perpetrators responsible for their actions, and support survivors. It takes all of us to create a respectful and caring community. We welcome and depend upon your continuing engagement in this work.