The National Summit on Sexual Assault, hosted by Dartmouth College, began this week in an effort to establish policies on how to address sexual assault on college campuses around the nation.
More than 300 administrators and advocates at the Summit have been attending sessions that encourage officials to take a firm stand against misogyny, sexism, and other issues that encourage sexual assault, ranging from language and imagery to music.
Federal officials have also called for institutions to maintain a higher standard in regards to combating and addressing sexual violence on their campuses. Back in April, as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to stop campus assaults, a number of Hollywood actors participated in an awareness-raising PSA.
And although it wasn’t directly addressed on the stage, talk about Dartmouth’s recent problems were also used as examples of why the problem needs to be addressed. Earlier in the year a “rape guide” (which included rape and death threats) was posted on a college board targeting a student on Dartmouth’s campus. Students expressed their concern over the lack of comments and public investigation by Dartmouth administrators.
Another panel discussed the language that institutions use to “soften” sexual assaults, like referring to rape as “non consensual sex.”
Some resolutions have already come about, with the suggestion that schools issue “climate surveys” as a way to gauge the concerns and issues students have concerning sexual assault on their campus. This would be implemented as a way to see which matters are most pressing and how administrators can develop policies and procedures to effectively handle situations as they arise, as well as preventative measures.
Programs that get members of the community involved were also suggested. And there was discussion about how to get men more engaged.
Currently, the federal government uses the Clery Act and Title IX to enforce standards. And The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was created to reinforce President Obama’s initiative against rape on college campuses. While The Clery Act requires institutions to regularly report campus crime statistics and to issue warning to students, Title IX requires institutions to protect their members from sexual harassment and violence.
A survey by Senator Claire McCaskill found that of 440 institutions, more than 40 percent hadn’t conducted a sexual assault investigation in the past five years. Some question educational institutions accountability when it comes to sexual assaults, but the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for civil rights Catherine Lhamon believes otherwise.
“I resist pretty hard the notion that schools don’t have a role in this. They absolutely do,” Lhamon said. “This is fundamental to the educational mission. … And it is necessarily different from what is the criminal justice role, and that to me doesn’t feel like a particularly problematic reality. The reality that sexual assault is a crime does not take away from the ways that it also creates a hostile environment for students subject to it.”