As a follow-up to my piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I was recently a guest on the Navigating Change podcast, where I talked more lessons for college and university leaders from the Sandusky scandal at Penn State University and the Nassar scandal at Michigan State University.
In 2014 the White House launched a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign to help combat sexual assault at the nation’s colleges and universities. Titled “It’s On Us,” the campaign uses celebrities to help raise awareness about the problem – what some are calling an epidemic – of sexual assault and rape in higher education.
This issue has received much attention from policymakers as well as the media over the last few years. The U.S. Department of Education, through its enforcement of Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965, has stepped up its oversight of how colleges adjudicate reports of sexual harassment and assault. The recent case of Brock Turner, a Stanford University student athlete convicted of sexually assaulting a woman while she was unconscious – and who received only a 6-month prison sentence for the act – has brought the issue to the forefront of the news once again.
The White House yesterday announced a new series of proposals to force colleges and universities to do a better job to prevent sexual assaults on campuses, and to do more to support the victims of assaults when they do occur. The proposals came from a high-level task force the president created in January (it contained three cabinet secretaries) to address an issue that has received intense scrutiny both on college campuses, as well as in the media, in the last year or so.
A key finding of the task force, as reported in The New York Times, is that, “one in five female college students has been assaulted, but that just 12 percent of such attacks are reported.” As a father with one daughter in college, and a second heading there in the future, these numbers are disturbing. It is clear that we in higher education need to heed the call for reform.