Title IX

BGSU working to get sexual violence victims to report assaults

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Mike Campbell, police chief and director of public safety at Bowling Green State University, knows what people do when they look at the Campus Security and Fire Safety Report. They scroll to the end where the numbers are. Numbers that show how many thefts and liquor code infractions there are. He knows what number is going to pop out on the 2018 report. In 2017 there were 20 rapes, all on campus,  reported, up from 14 reported in 2015 and eight reported in 2016. There were also seven reported cases of fondling when none had been reported before. That number comes with a caveat though. The key term is “reported.” Campbell said: “If we’re talking about those numbers themselves, it’s not completely unexpected.” The university has expanded its efforts to combat sexual violence, and a lot of that effort has been to increase reporting.  “We’re trying to create an environment  where people are comfortable reporting. …If we don’t know something transpired it’s difficult to support the survivor, and it gives us the ability to investigate that and hold someone accountable for their actions.” Jennifer McCary, the Title IX officer for BGSU, has been central in getting out the message that sexual assaults should be reported. She has given presentations to 2,100 students and about 200 faculty, who are required to report if a student tells them of an assault. She noted that nine of the rapes reported in 2017, actually happened in 2016. But neither McCary nor Campbell would say that the increase in the number represents just more reporting as opposed to an actual increase. “That’s always tough to discern,” Campbell said.  “Studies out there show approximately 90 percent don’t report their assaults ever,” he said. “Sexual violence is very underreported. Everything we can do that encourages those  victimized to report gives us the ability to investigate that crime but also to support that survivor.” McCary, who is assistant vice resident for student affairs, was hired as a result of the report by a task force on sexual violence that was created in response to protests in spring, 2017, over the way the university handled reports of rape and sexual violence.“We do have new student sexual misconduct and relationship policy,” McCary said. “We will investigate reports that come in.” A student may report an incident but may not want to pursue it, she said.  A student may talk about something to a professor, but will not want to go through the investigative process. If a student “is willing to participate,” fact-finding is conducted “to try to get as much information as possible,” McCary said. That may progress to disciplinary action. That process has resulted in students being permanently and temporarily removed from campus. That disciplinary process is under a shadow as institutions of higher education are awaiting new guidance from the US Department of Education. The current interim guidance was handed down under the Obama Administration. Officials are expecting that the new guidance will advise the use of the higher clear and convincing standard for determining guilt. The university uses a preponderance of evidence standard. By that standard a finding is made based on whether “it’s more likely than not” that there has been a policy violation. This is in keeping, McCary said,…


Faculty members urge BGSU to be a leader in addressing sexual violence

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Sandra Faulkner wants Bowling Green State University to be the leader in combating sexual assault on campus. The director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies hopes that the recent protests over the way BGSU handles sexual assault will lead to innovation, not duplication of other universities’ “best practices.” “No institution in higher education handles sexual violence well,” she said. Faulkner and her colleague Sarah Rainey, an associate professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies, met with Dean of Students Jodi Webb Friday in the wake of a protest that drew about 200 students. In their meeting with Webb, Faulkner and Rainey brought with them a list of actions, drafted by members of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies faculty, that BGSU could take immediately to start addressing the problem. On Monday President Mary Ellen Mazey announced the formation of Task Force on Sexual Assault. Rainey is one of 17 members appointed to the task force. The task force includes faculty, staff, students, the student member of the Board of Trustees, and a representative from The Cocoon. (http://bgindependentmedia.org/mazey-to-launch-task-force-on-sexual-assault/) According to President Mary Ellen Mazey’s letter announcing its creation, the task force’s charge is: “to review our policies and procedures for Title IX and sexual assault, benchmark our efforts against best practices across the country, and provide recommendations to improve the campus culture and our policies. In addition, the task force will examine our services for supporting sexual assault victims and evaluate our awareness and prevention efforts.” Both Faulkner and Rainey were encouraged by the composition of the task force. Faulkner is concerned about the word “benchmark.” “We shouldn’t be benchmarking with anyone,” she said. “We should innovate. We should do more.” Other institutions should be looking to BGSU as the model. While the Task Force is expected to gather before summer, Rainey said she expects the work to start in earnest in August when the fall semester begins. It would be hard to meet throughout the summer given faculty and students are not always on campus. They indicated a report would be made by the end of the year. Before then they and their colleagues and students would like certain steps to be taken. The university must do a better job of educating students about the issue. That would include information about prevention as well as what options are available to victims. All student victims have the right to have a victim’s advocate. That service is through The Cocoon, and is paid for by the Cocoon through a grant. Faulkner and Rainey propose the university fund the position because grant funding is by its nature uncertain. “We should do more to help promote and support that position,” Rainey said. “That role is incredibly important. They are going to make sure that the victim knows all her options.” “The system can be overwhelming for a student to navigate,” Faulkner said. That’s why having a neutral party is important. The position, however, should remain at the Cocoon to avoid the perception that university employees are looking out more for the institution’s interests than those of the victim. In an interview Friday, three university officials involved in investigating sexual assault discussed the university’s handling of such cases. They said they could not comment on specific issues…