Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed new guidelines on how colleges and universities should handle sexual misconduct allegations on campus. Broadly, the proposal is seen as bolstering the rights of those accused of sexual misconduct on campus. Next, the proposed guidelines will be subject to a public comment period.
These new guidelines certainly represent a shift in how colleges and universities will handle sexual misconduct allegations on campus. Here is what you can do now.
Recognize that the pressure to address sexual misconduct on campus is not going to change
The Obama-era changes to Title IX sparked a national conversation about campus sexual misconduct that continues today. The issue remains in the spotlight due to continued media scrutiny and increased attention from the #MeToo movement in and out of higher ed. No matter the specifics of the Department of Education’s guidelines, institutions will face continuing public pressure to thoughtfully and seriously address sexual misconduct on campus.
Provide comment on the proposed guidelines
The proposed guidelines are subject to a 60-day public comment period. Anyone—including advocacy organizations, college leaders, faculty, staff, and students—can provide input.
Prepare for an upswing of activism on campus
Regardless of the outcome of the DOE’s review, students, parents, alumni, and advocacy organizations will continue to focus on this issue and will pressure higher education leaders to act. Campuses should expect protests and demonstrations, op eds on all sides of the issue, and requests for editorial comment from senior leaders. Create opportunities for students—and others—to dialogue share their perspectives with peers and campus leaders.
Communicate with students, faculty, and staff
The proposed guidelines and ongoing rulemaking process will draw considerable media attention. Campus leaders must communicate that the institution remains committed to seriously addressing sexual misconduct on campus. Institutions should openly communicate about possible policy changes, remind the campus community about available resources, reiterate the importance of ongoing prevention and education initiatives, and emphasize that anyone should feel comfortable and confident coming forward to report an issue or concern on campus.
Colleges and universities must continue their efforts to support students who have experienced sexual misconduct. Key elements here include encouraging students to report incidents, connecting students with available resources, and prioritizing ongoing training initiatives for the entire campus community.
How to promote reporting on campus
Download the Sexual Misconduct Reporting study to explore five key areas where campuses can simplify reporting processes and leverage reports to improve the overall campus response to sexual misconduct.