jossey-bass

Stay up to date with

  • Timely advice and practical solutions to all your student affairs challenges
  • Hot topics issues like supporting students with psychological issues, addiction to pornography or internet gaming
  • The latest lawsuits and rulings information from the courts, OCR and FPCO
  • and more
Use discount code SAYW5 and SAVE 20%! SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Other Products of Interest

College Athletics and the Law
Develop a legally sound “game plan” for your institution's athletics programs! Each month, you get expert coaching on how to meet NCAA and Title IX requirements, negotiate coaching contracts, support athletes with disabilities, and more. Read More
Disability Compliance for Higher Education
Learn how to keep your institution in compliance with disability laws while ensuring the best policies and programs for effectively serving students with disabilities. Read More
Compliance
6/8/2015 12:00 AM

Rape, sexual assault and stalking all qualify as criminal acts that, ideally, should be investigated and prosecuted through the criminal justice system, just like all other crimes. However, when these incidents occur between students at a college or university, that institution must also respond.

Rape, sexual assault and stalking all qualify as criminal acts that, ideally, should be investigated and prosecuted through the criminal justice system, just like all other crimes. However, when these incidents occur between students at a college or university, that institution must also respond.

Some claim that colleges shouldn’t take any action until after the completion of a criminal proceeding. Meanwhile, others claim that colleges shouldn’t address such criminal behavior at all because that’s best left up to the police and the courts.

But when these incidents occur on college campuses, they often involve alcohol use and no witnesses besides the two students involved in the alleged crime — a scenario that usually discourages prosecutors from taking on the case. And that leaves victimized students and potential perpetrators to continue studying and residing alongside the rest of the college community.

That’s why colleges have an obligation and a vested interest in responding to these incidents — not only because of Title IX requirements, but also for the following reasons:

  • Trauma recovery is an individualized process. Each individual responds differently to victimization and trauma. Some may be prepared to file a police report right away, while others may need a long time to process the trauma before they’re ready to talk about it — let alone file a report or submit to a medical exam for a rape kit. While it’s ideal to report criminal behavior and collect evidence right away, sometimes victims need to focus all their energy on taking care of their basic safety and well-being before they feel ready to participate in an investigation or litigation. Until then, a survivor of sexual assault may just want to go back to attending classes and experiencing life as usual while going through the healing process, but without having to see the alleged perpetrator on campus.
  • Criminal/legal processes take time. College life can’t be put on hold while rape kits are processed, police investigations are completed, and court dates are scheduled. In fact, months and years can pass while both students wait for an outcome. In the meantime, classes, semesters and graduations all go on as usual. Waiting for completion of the criminal process before the college addresses the incident ends up creating an unfair situation for both students. If colleges don’t offer a victimized student recourse that allows her to continue to pursue her education without fear of further victimization or reminders of the incident (such as running into her alleged attacker in class), the college isn’t providing educational access to that student. Institutions also can’t allow individuals who pose a threat to others’ safety to remain on campus for the duration of the criminal justice process. On the other hand, it’s also unfair to withhold an accused student’s access to his education for the duration of the criminal justice process. Finally, participating in the criminal justice process requires a lot of strength and emotional energy that some individuals may not be willing or able to invest.
  • Different questions, different answers. The criminal process determines if a law was violated and offers justice. The student conduct process determines if policy was violated and issues sanctions designed to protect the safety of the college community and educate students. Given the possible outcomes of the courts, a high standard of proof is rightfully applied. In a student conduct process, an equitable standard of “more likely than not” or “more than 50 percent” is used to weigh the information regarding both students’ accounts of an event. No college should find a student “guilty of rape,” and of course no campus has the ability to sentence a student to jail. Instead, a college can issue a finding of responsible or not responsible for policy violations, such as sexual misconduct or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of another. And that college can also impose sanctions, including whether a student found responsible can continue to pursue his education at that institution.
  • Colleges don’t have a choice — but prosecutors do. Title IX requires colleges to respond to reports of sexual harassment — and a single act of rape or sexual assault constitutes a form of sexual harassment. Colleges often must address incidents that prosecutors wouldn’t likely be able to prove in court. The incidents usually involve alcohol and rarely involve “a stranger jumping out of the bushes.” And the incidents are often much more complex than those that go through the criminal justice system.
  • Colleges have obligations to their entire communities. Of course, sexual misconduct isn’t the only type of crime that colleges must address. College campuses also have their share of drug dealing/possession, assault, theft, fraud, and other conduct that violates the law and/or college policy. Failure to address these incidents results in a failure to educate students and may also put the safety of the community at risk.
Student Success
4/29/2015 12:00 AM

When students aren’t making connections or friends easily, then you know they’re having a hard time adjusting to life on your campus. And challenges to student engagement can significantly impact student development and success. Should you blame social media and other technology? Or see them as opportunities for boosting engagement?

NEW ORLEANS, LA. — When students aren’t making connections or friends easily, then you know they’re having a hard time adjusting to life on your campus. And challenges to student engagement can significantly impact student development and success.

Should you blame social media and other technology? Or see them as opportunities for boosting engagement?

“As much as we think social networking makes students antisocial, it really does help bridge those connections. It helps them make those social connections a little bit more quickly and easily,” said Adam Cebulski, senior director, Office of Research & Strategic Initiatives, at OrgSync. In fact, research backs that up, he said.

“Social media will make their world a little bit smaller and more manageable at first, then they’ll eventually expand their world,” he said.

The approach has worked for Roniciel “Joy” M. Vergara, who formerly worked at DePaul University and is now director of campus programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Cebulski and Vergara recently discussed effective strategies at the annual conference of NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

So how do you start using social media and other technology to boost student engagement? Consider implementing these key steps recommended by Cebulski and Vergara:

  1. Know your students.
  2. Collect stakeholders.
  3. Centralize technology.
  4. Define your voice.
  5. Select a framework.
  6. Continually assess development outcomes.

Vergara said that it helps to start by setting goals, such as:

  • Becoming more intentional and data-driven.
  • Broadening, diversifying and strengthening points of strategic engagement.
  • Strengthening the organizational and operational effectiveness of the student affairs division.

Consider what you’re already doing, what tools you already have, and how you can use those tools more efficiently, Vergara said. Gain buy-in from the beginning by talking to your vice president or vice chancellor. Discuss what kinds of data the institution already collects that isn’t being shared and how it can be shared. Have poster fairs to share data with academic affairs, she said.

Before you ask for something from another department, first offer data they want or student help they want and explain the benefits to them, Cebulski said.

Also consider all the online and paper data-collection methods you already have in place, such as residence halls, card readers, surveys, third-party vendors and shared drives. Consider asking graduate technology and design students to gather, implement and analyze data. For example, Vergara said that OrgSync for events can feed into a calendar application that feeds into a university events page and a university app.

But don’t just decide on platforms or formats without asking students what they’re using and what they like, Cebulski said.

Evaluate various tech methods

Cebulski and Vergara recommended you continually assess the strengths and weaknesses of your use of each social-media platform:

  • Facebook: Post student-driven information, such as cancellations, deadlines and informal, fun stuff. Never pay to promote your material on Facebook — the key is posting content that others will want to share because more shares move your content higher up in the feed.
  • Twitter: Keep it brief, to the point and more formal. In most cases, your institution and marketing departments won’t want you to have subaccounts.
  • Instagram: This is where your personality comes out. Post photos of students having fun on campus. Show the fun nature of student affairs. Encourage students to add to certain hashtags. Ask student workers and student ambassadors (but only students you trust) to use your log-in to post photos from institutional events. Ensure all posts are fresh and current — never post or mention anything from the past (save that for Facebook). Usually avoid posts about the future, unless you’re posting regularly about something launching soon, like a daily countdown to senior week. But don’t post about an event that’s a month away because students won’t scroll down to read it.
  • LinkedIn: Unless you’re involved in career placement, don’t waste your time here, especially if you’re involved in first-year or residential programs.

Aim for mobile, paperless

Think about any paper forms that could become electronic, such as forms students must fill out for events or waivers. You can easily connect students to programs such as SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics or Google Forms so students can access forms on their mobile devices instead of having to go to your office between 9 and 5 to fill out forms.

Gain buy-in among staff and higher-ups by emphasizing that paperless promotes sustainability plus increased connection with students in a more engaging, updated way, Vergara said. Start with something small, show how it works well, and then you can go on to bigger things, she said.

Students will likely catch on quickly. “When we have a system that is really truly for them, they’re slowly adapting and using it,” Vergara said.

Mobile marketing plays a key role. Whatever data-collection and engagement tools you ask students to use must be as easy as using a cell phone and as swiping a card up and down, Vergara said. “There’s an emotional connection and excitement to swiping,” she said.

Finally, if you decide to use a technology vendor who doesn’t cater to higher education, then make sure they understand how to address needs related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, so that protected information doesn’t show up in Google searches, Cebulski advised.

For more information, you may contact Cebulski at adam@orgsync.com or www.orgsync.com or Vergara at RVergara@uic.edu or http://campusprograms.uic.edu.

Compliance
4/27/2015 12:00 AM

NEW ORLEANS, LA. — Title IX education and awareness programming — check! It’s one thing to make sure you’ve met the mandates. But it’s quite another to make sure the information actually got through to everyone in a way they could absorb and apply it.

NEW ORLEANS, LA. — Title IX education and awareness programming — check! It’s one thing to make sure you’ve met the mandates. But it’s quite another to make sure the information actually got through to everyone in a way they could absorb and apply it.

“We’re all required to comply with Title IX. We’re all reminded that we play a key role in ensuring our students’ safety and well-being,” said Vanessa Bing, psychology professor and director of the women’s center, at LaGuardia Community College, The City University of New York.

But because everybody learns differently, it can make all the difference to provide Title IX education and awareness in different formats, said Steven Hitt, managing director of the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center at LaGuardia, CUNY.

That’s why CUNY colleagues collaborated to present Title IX using two different creative approaches, experiential theatre and digital technology, said Joanna DeLeon, student development associate, program coordinator at the women’s center, and psychology adjunct faculty at LaGuardia, CUNY.

They shared their approach at the annual conference of NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Colleges and universities across the country struggle to prevent sexual assault, harassment and discrimination and respond in a fair and timely manner, Bing said. Although most faculty and staff members know what situations require them to take action, not everyone knows who to turn to, or where to turn, she said. “If we’re informed, hopefully that will obviate the need for various interventions because it won’t happen. But getting to that point isn’t easy,” she said.

Providing active rather than passive education can help faculty, staff and students take ownership of their learning, DeLeon said.

They explained how cross-campus collaboration between academic and student affairs and the theatre department successfully offers Title IX education via two forms of artistic expression at their institution:

  1. Digital storytelling — Short, personal multimedia tales told from the heart, integrating music, images and narration. Students use two free, user-friendly software programs, MovieMaker and Audacity. Staff put out a call to students interested in helping their community in this civic engagement project.
  2. Staff encourage students to use their own backgrounds and languages to tell their own stories about sexual assault/harassment/discrimination involving themselves or others, such as recalling the domestic violence of their mother. The intimate, participatory process can have deep, lasting impact that heightens awareness while building a cohort of student activists. The digital stories also become public service announcements.

    The diverse student population includes some from very strict cultural/religious cultures in which very controlling relationships are embedded in their culture. So students learned that it doesn’t have to be that way.

  3. Experiential theatre — Structured improvisation by trained professionals (or sometimes trained students) to allow audiences to engage, feel and respond to experiences acted out on stage. Hitt’s program, Performing Arts for College Transformation (PACT), has been used as a tool for 20 years to train police officers in hostage negotiation and conflict mediation. Now Hitt uses it for awareness and skills-building related to Title IX issues (including power imbalance), diversity, student satisfaction, workplace violence, and conflict resolution, and to train advisors and front-line staff.

    One skit might be set in a college financial aid office where a returning student says she needs aid to pay her tuition. But the financial aid officer frequently touches the student and pressures her to come back later that evening to find out about scholarships she could obtain. The audience is asked for their reaction, including what they think and feel about the scene, and how they might handle it if they came upon such a scene on their campus.

    The audience includes a mix of faculty and students, but it could be separated out if preferred.

    Bing has seen experiential theatre work well. “It got so many students in the room thinking, talking, questioning. The goal is to get the dialogue going and the community engaged in the issue. Although all our administrators know what the rules are, in real life how things get played out can be different, what we do, how we manage the situation,” she said.

    It’s important to take the time to make experiential theatre presentations a safe space for everyone, Hitt said.

    Also, make sure you have trained facilitators and a counselor available in the room just in case anyone is triggered by the portrayals on the stage or the screen, because some people do become emotional, Bing said.

For more information, you may contact Bing at vbing@lagcc.cuny.edu, DeLeon at JDeleon@lagcc.cuny.edu, or Hitt at stevenh@lagcc.cuny.edu.

Law and Campus
8/13/2013 12:00 AM

Case name: Gamage v. State of Nevada, No.: 2:12-cv-00290-GMN-VCF (D. Nev. 03/19/13).

Ruling: The District Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding the plaintiff had alleged enough facts to allow the case to proceed.

Case name: Gamage v. State of Nevada, No.: 2:12-cv-00290-GMN-VCF (D. Nev. 03/19/13).

Ruling: The District Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding the plaintiff had alleged enough facts to allow the case to proceed.

What it means: When a public higher education institution dismisses a student for academic dishonesty, such as plagiarism, it must give the student due process.

And that due process could include permission for the student to be represented by an attorney at a hearing.

Summary: Sujanie Gamage submitted a dissertation to her advisory committee in the chemistry program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in February 2011.

A chemistry professor filed a report in June 2011 alleging that Gamage’s dissertation contained plagiarized text.

After a hearing, the university’s academic integrity appeal panel found Gamage had committed plagiarism. She was removed from the program.

Gamage sued, disputing the academic misconduct and claiming violation of due process rights because she was prevented from being represented and/or assisted by an advisor at the hearing.

The university filed a motion to dismiss.

The judge said the Due Process Clause prohibited arbitrary deprivations of liberty.

Noting the complaint alleged UNLV prevented her from returning to the university and effectively from being admitted to another higher education institution, he ruled Gamage had adequately pled a deprivation of constitutionally protected interests.

The judge refused to dismiss the case.

You Be the Judge
8/7/2013 12:00 AM
Christopher Reichert enrolled in Ellzabethtown College in the fall of 2007. He informed the college he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a seizure disorder, and learning disabilities in written expression and reading fluency. Reichert encountered difficulties in his sophomore and senior years.

Christopher Reichert enrolled in Ellzabethtown College in the fall of 2007. He informed the college he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a seizure disorder, and learning disabilities in written expression and reading fluency. Reichert encountered difficulties in his sophomore and senior years.

He allegedly had a heated exchange with a professor when he attempted to drop a course. The professor reported the incident to the department chairman and a meeting was arranged to discuss other complaints against Reichert. The chairman concluded Reichert should be expelled because he represented a threat to others.

The provost overruled the chairman’s decision after Reichert and his parents protested. But Reichert claimed the provost and faculty members devised a multipart plan to force him out. Reichert alleged he was denied further accommodations, rumors were spread about him, and faculty members were told to “make a record of all [his] inappropriate behaviors.”

After a meeting between Reichert and the dean of students, the dean scheduled a disciplinary hearing, which was rescheduled because Reichert had a seizure. Additional meetings were scheduled to discuss Reichert’s professional competency and a plagiarism accusation. Because Reichert suffered a mental breakdown, the college allowed him to take a medical leave of absence but told him he had to face those hearings before returning.

Reichert filed a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his civil rights as a person with a disability. He also asserted a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging a conspiracy to violate his civil rights.

Reichert v. Elizabethtown College, et al., No. 10-2248 (E.D. Pa. 04/10/12)

Did the court dismiss the student’s claims?

A. Yes. The court dismissed the claims for violation of civil rights because the university was a private entity and wasn’t acting under color of law.

B. Yes. The court dismissed the claims alleging conspiracy because he couldn’t show that two or more people conspired to have him dismissed.

C. No. The court upheld the claims for violation of civil rights because the university, by virtue of being a recipient of federal funds, acted under color of law.

D. No. The court upheld the conspiracy claim because the allegations were sufficient to establish a possible conspiracy among college officials with the objective of having the student dismissed.

Correct answer: A and D.

The claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 were dismissed because Reichert couldn’t show the college was a “state actor.” But the judge noted Reichert’s allegations established the required elements for the § 1985 claim. Because he alleged the individual defendants held at least one meeting to unlawfully remove him and also asserted other allegations of disability-based discrimination, the judge decided not to dismiss the claim.

Editor’s note: This feature isn’t intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Law and Campus
8/1/2013 12:00 AM

Case name: State of Illinois v. Oduwole, No. 5-12-0039 (Ill. App. Ct. 03/06/13).

Ruling: Illinois’ Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding that a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville student was wrongly convicted of attempting to make a terrorist threat.

Case name: State of Illinois v. Oduwole, No. 5-12-0039 (Ill. App. Ct. 03/06/13).

Ruling: Illinois’ Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding that a Southern Illinois University Edwardsville student was wrongly convicted of attempting to make a terrorist threat.

What it means: To prove a charge of attempting to make a terrorist threat, the prosecution must introduce more than just a few writings that appear to be threatening from a student who aspires to be a rap singer, plus weapons without bullets, and the opening of a PayPal account under a pseudonym.

Summary: Olutosin Oduwole, a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, opened a PayPal account under the name “Jeff Robinson” on May 3, 2007. On July 16, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms informed campus police Oduwole had recently purchased four pistols.

Campus police decided on July 20 Oduwole’s vehicle had been left unattended for more than two days. In accordance with university policy, a campus police officer prepared to tow it away. During a routine inventory of the vehicle’s contents, the officer found bullets in the console.

He also found a piece of paper depicting an inhaler and handwriting. Much of the writing was unconnected words, but it also had the phrase: “SEND 2 to … paypal account if this account doesn’t reach $50,000 in the next 7 days then a murderous rampage similar to the VT shooting will occur at another highly populated university. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!”

Oduwole was immediately arrested and charged with attempting to convey a terrorist threat. A loaded pistol and nearly 2,000 pages of writings were seized from his room pursuant to a search warrant. A large percentage of the entries appeared to be rap lyrics or writings related to aspiring to have a rap career.

A more thorough search of the vehicle uncovered a knit cap with a ski mask hidden behind the back seat. The searches didn’t yield any indication of plans to distribute a threat or ammunition for the handguns Oduwole had purchased.

A forensic specialist concluded the handwriting on the paper was Oduwole’s.

A Microsoft Movie Maker file was found on the hard drive of his computer, but the file had been deleted. However, some captions remained in a compressed drive and the picture files had names of universities such as Harvard University and Penn State.

At his trial, Oduwole produced evidence he was an aspiring rap artist, and an expert testified the handwriting amounted to the beginning of a song.

Oduwole was found guilty of illegally possessing a firearm and attempting to make a terrorist threat. He appealed only the terrorist threat conviction.

The state argued the handwritten phrase on the paper, the creation of the Movie Maker file, and the opening of the PayPal account either individually or collectively was sufficient to support the conviction.

But the appellate court said there was no evidence Oduwole ever had a plan to disseminate the writing on the paper.

And it said PayPal accounts and Movie Maker files weren’t specially designed for unlawful purposes.

Finally, the court found no evidence Oduwole targeted anyone in whom he intended to instill fear. The panel didn’t mention a fake name on his PayPal account or the ski mask hidden in his car.

The panel concluded the evidence merely showed activities consistent with a variety of scenarios. It reversed Oduwole’s conviction.

  • LOGIN HERE

    Username: Password:
  • Content Directory

    SAT subscribers can now log in to browse all articles online!
    Browse Content
    Free Content
  • Free E-Alerts

    Sign up to receive exclusive content and special offers in the areas that interest you. 
    Send
  • Subscription Formats

  • Meet the Editor

    Claudine McCarthy
    Editor

    Claudine brings two decades of extensive and varied experience in journalism and publishing to Student Affairs Today. An award-winning editor, Claudine keeps up with the ever-changing world of student affairs by staying in close contact with experts on various hot topics and by attending professional conferences
Copyright © 2000-2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. or related companies. All rights reserved.