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Best Practices in Training and Compliance Around Title IX

light bulbs-300Increasing reports of sexual violence on college campuses across the nation have brought the subject out of the shadows and into the light. Whether it’s that sexual assaults are increasing in frequency or just that more people are coming forward to report such incidents, it’s an issue that must be addressed.

So what actions can colleges and universities take to curb sexual violence on campus and help create a safe, respectful, collegiate learning and teaching environment? In the article “Best Practices in Training and Compliance Around Title IX, VAWA and the Clery Act” in the current issue of CUPA-HR’s The Higher Education Workplace magazine, Sondra Solovay of Campus Answers provides some tips on how to make compliance training more effective and impactful and how best to prepare for an investigation.

Best Practices in Training

  • Start with a needs assessment. Prior to undertaking any training initiatives, conduct a needs assessment and campus climate survey to gather data from students on sexual violence and gender bias. If need be, educate or update the president, governing boards and faculty on the laws surrounding the issue.
  • When designing training, be sure to develop advocates and allies across campus and regularly engage with the people on campus who may be impacted the most by these laws. Athletic departments, women’s centers and resident advisors all need to be “in the loop.” Institution-wide understanding and support of the training program will help ensure its successful implementation.
  • Don’t think about training as a one-time, check-the-box task. Engaging content, repeated exposure and a consistent message that takes into account different perspectives and speaks to the unique campus community will be most successful.
  • Avoid old-fashioned thinking that puts the responsibility for culture change solely on women. Actively engage men and bystanders of all genders and abilities, establish safe zones and reach out to women’s centers, student centers and associations to unite the campus in the shared goal.
  • The student body is a key component to fully implementing a sexual violence prevention training program. Institutions should teach students at the ground level how to be empowered individuals, responsible bystanders and competent responders. Incorporating training before and during orientation as well as on an ongoing basis in classes is a good way to accomplish this.

Be Prepared for an Investigation

  • Make sure your policies are up to date. Policies and procedures must at minimum mirror statutory requirements. Whenever there’s an update to the law and your policy, assure that information is distributed to the appropriate parties. As you distribute and publicize your policies, reinforce that it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain a harassment- and discrimination-free campus.
  • Make sure your campus community knows about your Title IX coordinator and how to file a complaint. Are your students aware of the duties and authority of the Title IX coordinator? Do they know how to contact the coordinator? Do you have coverage for non-work hours if a student wants to file a complaint during evenings or weekends? Are there back-up or on-call coordinators to address complaints if the office is closed?
  • Create a chain of command. Create a list of who should be contacted based on the nature of the complaint being filed. Issue the document to everyone who could potentially hear about a problem. Indicate whether personal involvement or simple notification is required. Indicate whether the notification is a matter of internal policy or legal responsibility.
  • Conduct response training. The Office of Civil Rights has clearly defined the need for training to address complaints, stating that “schools must ensure that their employees are trained so that they know to report harassment to appropriate school officials, and so that employees with the authority to address harassment know how to respond properly. Training must be provided to any employees likely to witness or receive reports of sexual harassment and violence, including teachers, school law enforcement unit employees, school administrators, school counselors, general counsels, health personnel and resident advisors.”
  • Develop an easy-to-use complaint reporting system. Having a single, central location for all complaints allows the institution to manage notifications, maintain equality in investigations and control the dissemination of information to the appropriate parties. In addition, it makes it easy for staff and students to know who to call, no matter what the problem
  • Develop a complaint resolution process. When a complaint is filed, the institution has an immediate responsibility to address it. Steps are: (1) take the initial information; (2) notify the complainant of their right to file a criminal complaint, if applicable; (3) initiate an investigation with trained professionals; (4) investigate even if the accuser refuses to name the offender; (5) take any necessary interim measures during the investigation to separate the complainant from the accused; (6) affect corrective action, if needed; (7) notify any appropriate parties of the disposition of the investigation.

In instances of sexual violence or alleged sexual violence on campus, the onus is on the institution to conduct a thorough, professional investigation, to ameliorate the problem and to affect change. And in order to do this successfully, training and preparation are key.

More Title IX Resources:
Tips, Tools and Expert Advice for Title IX Coordinators (a CUPA-HR Virtual Workshop — May 12, 2016)
Title IX Toolkit in the CUPA-HR Knowledge Center
On-Demand Webinar – Do You Have What It Takes to be a Title IX Coordinator?

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