This guide is part of a Campus Policy Toolkit compiled based on our experiences organizing on the ground on our campuses. This document is constantly evolving to reflect the diverse experiences of survivors and organizers on campuses across the country. Please share your policy suggestions with us here!
Why This Guide?
As a survivor-activist at Georgetown, I found that one of the biggest barriers to advocacy was figuring out what we wanted to organize around. We all knew that we wanted to make sure everyone could access an education free from violence, but we weren’t necessarily sure what steps the university should take to make that goal a reality.
While of course every campus is different and faces unique challenges, in this guide we’ve made some suggestions for some of the most important policies every school should have. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list. For more ideas, check out our policy checklist and contact us here with your own policy suggestions. We want to keep building these ideas based on the ideas and experiences of survivors and organizers on a diversity of campuses.
- The best policies are written, clear, explicit, thorough, easily accessible, and available online, as well as in hard copy on campus. Often schools will tell organizers that they are already making important changes but won’t publish the policy. In my experience, it’s best to remind them that, if they really are doing something right, they won’t have a problem writing it down and providing that information to students. Knowledge is power and will lead to students’ increased confidence in the system.
- Policies should be centralized whenever possible. A Survivor’s Bill of Rights is one way to do this (although a bill of rights is unlikely to encompass all of the rights survivors have under federal law).
- Policies should be posted online and in locations that students frequent.
- 24/7 crisis services should be readily available to survivors at all times.
- Be creative in your advocacy and set internal deadlines so schools can’t drag things out. (Waiting out survivors’ and organizers’ graduations is a time-tested tactic institutions use to avoid meaningful change.)
Please note that 1) not all policies listed here are explicitly required under Title IX (yet!) and 2) a school that is practicing policies required by Title IX is not necessarily also legally required to make these policies explicit. The explicitly required policies are underlined below; other policies are *promising* practices. Remember, though, that Title IX requires a bare minimum from schools that they always can and should exceed; don’t let what the law is currently understood to require limit your ambitions or organizing.
1) Schools should publish aggregate data regarding sanctions for individuals found responsible for perpetrating sexual violence.
As many of us know too well, schools are terrible at sanctioning perpetrators. This is particularly concerning because the majority of campus perpetrators will commit an average of six rapes each, so a school that assigns a perpetrator a book report or some other slap on the wrist is allowing that person to continue harming people on campus. While colleges cannot publicly release sanctions with respect to a specific, named individual (because sanctions are considered an “educational record” and protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)), they can and should publish aggregate statistics so that activists (and the general student population) can hold their schools accountable for their response. Expect your school to cry FERPA when you demand this. Push back.
Also: despite the restrictions FERPA places on schools, know that a survivor has the right to be notified of the outcomes of her/his/their disciplinary proceedings. Also know that your school cannot limit you whatsoever from sharing the outcome of that proceeding. For more information on FERPA in the campus context, click here.
2) Schools should conduct and publish the results of campus climate surveys to determine prevalence.
Since reporting is so low, a school’s Clery Act crime statistics hardly reflect an accurate picture of prevalence on campus. Many schools are resistant to measuring prevalence because, if done properly, they might reveal the reality that their campus is unsafe—information schools don’t want getting out. In order to reduce costs and facilitate administration of the survey, The White House has provided a sample, evidence-based survey instrument that schools can use.
3) Campuses should create a working group on gender-based violence.
Above all, the working group should be inclusive and, at a minimum, should include high-level administrators, staff working on violence issues, health center professionals, campus security, local law enforcement, local rape crisis advocates, resident assistants (RAs), and survivors, with particular emphasis on representation of students from historically marginalized groups. This working group should meet frequently to discuss and enact improvements to current policies and procedures. When revising the policy, schools should engage in a vetting period where students have an opportunity to weigh in and offer feedback on the proposals.
4) Schools should very clearly define terms in their written policies.
Note: This language is taken from the White House Task Force.
Suggested terms include: sexual harassment, hostile environment caused by sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, retaliation, intimidation, and consent. Any definition of the latter should recognize that consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity; that someone who is incapacitated cannot consent; that past consent does not imply future consent; that silence or absence of resistance does not imply consent; that consent to engage in sexual activity with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity with another; that consent can be withdrawn at any time; and that coercion, force, or threat of either invalidates consent.
Schools should also define what constitutes incapacitation (i.e. due to the use of drugs or alcohol, when a person is asleep or unconscious, or because of a disability that prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent).
1) Schools should make clear where survivors can go for confidential support, as opposed to whom they can make a report. We encourage pushing for a balanced policy, one that provides survivors with a variety of options to disclose confidentially while making sure university administrators are aware of violence that is occurring on campus. The White House confidentiality policy is a good start if you are looking for a template to revise for your school.
Just an FYI: due to clarified Department of Education guidance, there are now three classes of employees for confidentiality purposes. (Previously there were only two types: licensed counselors/pastoral counselors and what is called “responsible employees.”)
- (1) individuals who are licensed counselors/pastoral counselors: If a survivor reports to employees in this group, they are NOT obligated to report any information to anyone.
- (2) people who commonly advocate for survivors (i.e. health center staff and women’s center staff): This group is not obligated to report survivors’ experiences but must submit non-identifying information about prevalence (i.e., as part of annual Clery Act disclosures) so campus responders are informed of the hostile environment that exists on campus.
- (3) everyone else! These employees are called “responsible employees” and include faculty, campus police, and other administrators. If members of this group hear a survivor’s report, they must report to the Title IX Coordinator, even against the survivor’s wishes. The Title IX Coordinator can proceed with an investigation against a survivor’s will, but should only do so if certain exacerbating factors exist (i.e., the assault was committed with a weapon or by a known serial perpetrator).
Schools now have the option to reasonably designate individuals into the second group and they should be encouraged to do so. The second option was intended to provide survivors with more options to seek help confidentially as opposed to the previous system, which allowed only licensed people or pastoral counselors to receive confidential reports. Unfortunately, many schools have chosen not to create this second group for liability reasons, leaving survivors with fewer options.
2) Schools should also create mechanisms online for students to report anonymously.
3) Schools, as a general rule, should create an office dedicated to gender-based violence.
Staffing will vary due to school size: smaller schools may be unable to create an entire office but should have professionals specifically dedicated to this issue; at the other end of the spectrum, it is absurd for large schools to have only one staff person dedicated to gender-based violence. Specifically, schools with the resources should:
- Employ a systems advocate whose sole job is to assist students with accessing interim relief measures and guide them through the reporting process. The systems advocate should report aggregate statistics under Clery (see above) so the school cannot sweep violence under the rug.
- Schools should also employ an individual who focuses on prevention. Your school may object to this because hiring additional staff is a significant financial investment. Don’t be afraid to call them out for not putting their money where their mouth is!
4) Schools should ensure that survivors can access crisis services on a 24/7 basis.
Many schools that employ staff during the week to provide services experience gaps in coverage over the weekend. A large number of survivors suffer violence on the weekend and asking them to wait until Monday to speak with an advocate may deter many from accessing accommodations—at that time or ever.
In order to ensure survivors can always access counseling, schools should enter into a memorandum of understanding agreement (MOU) with a local rape crisis center that will provide counseling for students after normal business hours. The White House has created a sample memorandum that your school can use.
5) Schools should make explicit that services and reporting options also apply to students who experience dating violence, domestic violence, and/or stalking. Beginning in October 2014, colleges should disclose these incidents in the campus crime log, as mandated by the Clery Act. Schools should also make explicit that all students are protected under Title IX regardless of identity.
Prevailing narratives surrounding sexual assault on campus often obscure the prevalence of other forms of gender-based violence. Title IX protects survivors of all forms of gender-based violence and accordingly support services and prevention programs should address sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Special accommodations/services such as civil protection orders (restraining orders) may be needed to address these forms of violence (for instance, schools should (but are not yet required to) provide transportation to secure a protection order), and it’s important that schools make the availability of these accommodations clear so that survivors know where and how to access them.
Schools should make explicit that ALL students are protected under Title IX regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, international student status or immigration status, disability, race, and national origin. Due to prevailing myths that only cisgender female students experience violence, it’s critical that student organizers push schools to explicitly state that male and gender-nonconforming students are also survivors of rape, sexual assault, dating violence, and other forms of gender-based violence.
6) Schools should explicitly spell out options for survivors to access resources and accommodations.
Title IX requires schools to provide accommodations to survivors. Unfortunately, the Department of Education is noticeably vague about what accommodations are required and when they are required. For a more detailed guide on what is required, refer to sections “G” and “H” in this recent guidance.
Schools should provide or make arrangements with an outside organization to provide: counseling services, extensions for academic and other deadlines, disability assistance, legal assistance, housing relocation, medical services, campus no-contact orders, and transportation to secure a rape kit and/or court-issued protection order. Additionally schools should allow survivors to retake classes without financial or academic penalty. Schools should also make it explicit that they will provide ongoing counseling for survivors regardless of their ability to pay. Schools should be clear that the burden of changing housing, classes, and other campus activities should fall on the perpetrator unless it is absolutely necessary to move the survivor.
1) Schools should explicitly provide amnesty to students who come forward, in good faith, to report an assault they witnessed or experienced while consuming alcohol or other drugs.
Watch out for schools trying to split hairs about not extending amnesty beyond underage alcohol consumption. This is absurd and will keep survivors silent and afraid to access services.
2) Schools are required to use the preponderance of the evidence (otherwise known as “more likely than not”) standard for adjudicating complaints.
Since Title IX is a civil rights law, the standard of preponderance of the evidence, used in other civil cases, is the correct standard. Schools that use a different standard such as “clear and convincing” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” violate Title IX.
3) Schools should install closed-circuit cameras in campus adjudication hearings.
Some universities only put up a thin screen between a survivor and a perpetrator, which is traumatic and could deter survivors from reporting or filing a complaint in the first place. In order to reduce trauma for survivors, schools should install a closed-circuit camera system to allow survivors to participate in the hearing without fear of being in the same room as their perpetrator.
And survivors who have obtained court-issued protection orders (which often require perpetrators to keep a certain distance away) should not be penalized by these requirements. If a protection order is in effect, schools should make sure that the burden of complying with that order falls squarely on the perpetrator who can then participate via closed-circuit camera. In other words, survivors with protection orders should not be penalized by being kept out of the hearing room if they wish to be present in person.
Finally, the Department of Education strongly discourages schools from allowing the perpetrator to directly question the survivor.
4) Schools should permit other victim(s) of the same perpetrator to testify in another survivor’s disciplinary hearing.
Sometimes schools say that if accused students are not allowed to speak about victims’ sexual history, then a victim should not be allowed to speak about the fact that the accused student assaulted other people (or have those other people testify). Remind your school that an accused student’s history of assaulting other victims is not his sexual history–it’s his criminal history.
5) Schools’ policies should explicitly state that if an accused student withdraws and/or transfers universities while a disciplinary complaint against him is pending, his transcript will be marked to indicate such.
6) Schools should make explicit that survivors are not limited in any way from discussing or publicizing the outcome of their complaint.
Many schools require survivors to sign nondisclosure agreements or threaten to punish them if they disclose; this is illegal. Survivors may be restricted from discussing what went on in the hearing due to FERPA requirements, but Title IX guidance states that they cannot be restricted from sharing the outcome.
7) Schools should have written, centralized policies about what rights survivors have during the adjudication process. These should include:
- Right to be informed of the outcome of their complaint through written means
- Protections against retaliation
- Right to access interim relief/accommodations
- Right against the use of “mediation” or other informal means to resolve complaints
- Right to have an advisor of their choice present during the hearing
- Ability to have investigators/members of hearing boards removed if they are biased or have a relationship with the perpetrator
- Equal opportunity to present evidence and witnesses
- Guarantee that no questions regarding irrelevant sexual history will be asked
- Right to file a federal or criminal complaint at any time
- Equal access to and notice about adjudication proceedings
- Protections against cross-examination by the alleged perpetrator(s)
- Protections against information about a complaint being shared with individuals not tasked with responding to violence
- Policy that school investigations will conclude in about 60 days
- Equal rights to appeal decision (i.e., if perpetrators can appeal the severity of a sanction, a survivor must be able to appeal leniency)
1) Schools should provide for robust prevention programs, which are administered to all incoming students and staff. (Note: This is required by the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act)
These programs should be conducted in-person as opposed to solely online. In addition, research indicates that prevention programs are most effective when followed up with additional programming throughout students’ time in college.
We have some complicated feelings about bystander intervention over here at KYIX (does it really address the causes of violence in any meaningful way? does it allow to go unquestioned the very power structures that create and perpetuate violence in the first place?). We’re big fans of 1) real enforcement on the part of universities against perpetrators (what a deterrent effect that would have!) and 2) sex ed that starts long before college. If you are interested in bringing bystander intervention to your campus, Prevention Innovations’ “Bringing in the Bystander” model provides evidence-based models of bystander intervention for schools to adopt, and might be a good starting point.
Here are some outside resources that may be helpful, from a policy perspective. This list is not exhaustive. Please let us know here what we’ve missed!
The White House
This report is a general overview of the research on sexual violence and federal actions to combat it during the Obama Administration. Of particular note is information on victimization rates for different communities and a section on campus sexual assault. This report coincided with the creation of the President’s Task Force.
This report, the first released by the Task Force, provides background on materials that the Task Force created to improve school responses to violence. The materials were designed to be an easy lift for schools, but many are still not implementing their policy ideas. These materials provide a strong starting point for advocacy.
This is the official government website for campus sexual assault. It centralizes existing government resources for survivors and provides materials for schools. Of particular note is the school-by-school enforcement map, which lays out which schools have been investigated and signed a voluntary resolution agreement/paid a Clery fine. Another useful component is the “Data” section, where the White House has compiled relevant federal data and literature on the topic, including David Lisak’s seminal work on perpetration. The website also has a glossary of common terms, a helpful infographic of how a complaint works, and a service locator for services in your area. It is really a great resource for students.
The Department of Education
This is the seminal guide to students’ right to an education free from violence. I highly suggest printing copies of it and bringing it along whenever you meet with an administrator for easy reference. The guidance describes students’ rights in a variety of areas including accommodations, judicial hearings/investigations, and services. It outlines strict guidelines on how a school can treat survivors.
The Department of Education noted that survivors and advocates had a lot of questions about the 2011 guidance. As a result, they released a frequently asked questions document that reaffirmed protections for ALL students. The document added new protections for students in the areas of confidentiality and affirmed many protections in the 2011 guidance.
This is less intuitive perhaps, but nothing scares a school like a call to OCR (besides filing a complaint). Calling an enforcement office offers a route to get advice about school responses short of filing a complaint. If you believe a school is violating Title IX, you can call OCR and discuss what is occurring. They can give you an informal opinion that you can take back to the school, giving you leverage in negotiations.
For those also interested in the prevention and bystander intervention side of things, check out Prevention Innovations. They have been examining prevention for years and they have developed an evidence-based tool that has been shown to change attitudes and increase intervention. The tool is termed, “Bringing in the Bystander” and they have a social norms campaign called, “Know Your Power.” Another important researcher in this field is Alan Berkowitz, who found that men overestimate other men’s acceptance of rape culture.
Although these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, we are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.