Lack of Training, Policies Prevent Clery, Title IX Compliance
Here are some steps your campus can take to improve your handling of sexual violence claims, helping your institution pass an audit by the Department of Education or Department of Justice Office for Civil Rights.
Nearly every week it seems as though another college’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education and/or U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Just ask campus officials at Dartmouth, Yale, the University of Southern California (USC), the University of North Carolina (UNC), Cedarville University or Swarthmore College, all of which are currently under the federal government’s microscope.
Many of the investigations, such as the ones being done on USC, UNC and Swarthmore, have been prompted by student complaints. According to Dolores Stafford, who is president and CEO of D. Stafford and Associates, and George Washington University’s former police chief, peripheral Clery audits being conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s financial aid division are also flagging institutions with suspect Clery practices.
“What’s clear to me is that the financial aid folks are reporting back [to the Philadelphia office of the Department of Education, which handles most of the investigations] as to whether a campus appears to be in compliance.”
Doing the Bare Minimum Might Cost You
When the auditors are at your doorstep, however, is not the time to get your sexual misconduct policies and procedures in order. Unfortunately, many campuses are not being proactive.
“I know of some administrations who are still of the mind that ‘We’ll take our chances and see if we get audited,’” Stafford says. “They are doing some of the minimum stuff, but not everything that they should.”
Even campus officials who strive to be proactive can sometimes not comply because they don’t understand the requirements of the Clery Act and Title IX or they lack resources because both laws are, for the most part, unfunded mandates.
Make Clery, Title IX Compliance a Priority
Normally, Clery compliance is the responsibility of the campus public safety department, and, according to Stafford, is usually handled by one person who is also responsible for other duties.
“They’ve got the responsibility for it but as another duty assigned,” she says. “But, I don’t believe this is another duty-as-assigned kind of a scenario.” Because of the Clery Act’s complexity and the volume of work it requires, Stafford believes a school should have a person assigned to compliance who is not bogged down with too many other responsibilities and who can prioritize compliance with the law.
Additionally, other campus staff, besides members of the public safety department or specific Clery compliance officers, should be involved in Clery compliance efforts. Those other individuals include workers in student housing, student conduct, resident advisers, student union staff, advisors, athletic directors, coordinators of Greek affairs, counselors, physicians and victim advocates, among others.
Another point Stafford notes is the fact that more and more campus police are now being asked to help with student conduct investigations and Title IX compliance. Title IX uses the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is very different from the “reasonable doubt” standard of evidence that applies to criminal cases. As a result, campus police officials should also receive training in Title IX.
Additionally, Stafford believes that the responsibilities of Title IX coordinators, who usually work in administration, should have duties that are limited in scope, much like the Clery compliance officer in the campus department of public safety.
“If you do this job well, the volume doesn’t really allow the person to do other work beyond Title IX,” she claims.