The ongoing media concentration on cases of domestic abuse perpetrated by NFL players against their spouses and children has, for the moment, pushed the issue of sexual assaults on our college campuses largely to the margins of our national attention. Our ability to solve problems seems to be diminishing in proportion to the ability—or willingness–of our news media to focus on more than one or two issues at a time.
I have previously criticized the administration at the University of Iowa for its handling of the “Vodka Sam” incident [see: https://academeblog.org/2013/09/11/vodka-sam-may-be-a-symptom-of-a-problem-but-she-herself-is-not-the-problem-not-even-the-public-relations-problem/ and https://academeblog.org/2014/04/02/vodka-sam-redux-why-hannah-horvath-may-end-up-attending-the-iowa-writers-workshop-but-never-actually-set-foot-on-the-university-of-iowa-campus/]. But, to its credit, the university administration has developed a straightforward plan for addressing sexual assaults on campus more expeditiously and effectively. I do not know how well the plan is actually working, but what I do think is very commendable is that the university has created a website on which it is tracking its progress toward realizing the objectives identified in the plan [http://president.uiowa.edu/six-point-plan]. This sort of public follow-up is not typically a feature of most campus plans. In fact, it seems that the more serious an issue is, the less likely it is that such public self-accountability will be a feature of such plans.
Point 1: Crack Down on Offenders
Hold all offenders responsible for their actions.
Two students expelled since April 2014.
Develop more, and more effective, sanctions.
All offenders found responsible for policy violations are sanctioned.
Expel offenders in the most severe cases.
Sanctioning guidelines established: http://dos.uiowa.edu/policies/sanctioning-guidelines-for-sexual-assault/.
Request Board of Regents support to assess system-wide policies and procedures.
Policy review underway.
Point 2: Increase Support for Survivors
Expand long-term support services.
Train every staff member who comes in contact with survivors.
Advocate continued federal funding for nurse examiners.
Communicated with our congressional offices and provided institutional funding for portion of SANE program.
Point 3: Improve Prevention and Education
Add staff for in-person training, workshops, and dialogues.
Implement regular campus safety walks to improve lighting and other conditions.
President’s Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Misconduct planning first walk during fall semester.
Authorize funding to expand Night Ride.
Second van purchased and in use.
Hours of service expanded from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., 7 days a week during academic year.
Point 4: Improve Communication
Make resource and support information easier to find.
Tuned internal search and added a more prominent link to OSMRC to UI Homepage.
Improve information on key web pages.
Improve language of our Timely Warning emails.
Revised language to include a “trigger warning” to alert survivors and stronger language about potential consequences for people who commit sexual offenses.
Point 5: Add Funding
Seek every source of dollars to support this plan, including savings from other areas.
Expand overall resources to address the problem of sexual assault.
Resources have been added (Nite Ride, SANE program).
Point 6: Listen More and Report Back: 100%
Form a student advisory group to meet regularly with the president and senior staff.
Group has formed – first meeting held April 21, 2014.
Use the president’s website to provide updates on this plan.
Updates have been posted and will continue to be refreshed.
Indeed, this week, the university announced the following “Sanctioning Guidelines for Sexual Assault“:
The University of Iowa strives to create a respectful, safe, and non-threatening environment for its students, faculty, staff, and lawful visitors. The policy on Sexual Misconduct Involving Students sets forth resources available to students, describes prohibited conduct, and establishes procedures for responding to sexual misconduct incidents. Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, threats, coercion, or manipulation. The term includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual intimidation
When a student is found responsible for sexual assault, one form of prohibited sexual misconduct, the following sanctioning guidelines will be utilized. In all cases the sanctions assigned to a student found responsible will depend on the full context in which the offense takes place. The Dean of Students is expected to use judgment in applying sanctioning guidelines.
Offenders who commit multiple offenses in a single episode can expect to be assigned more severe sanctions than they would have been assigned had they committed fewer offenses. Repeat offenders can expect to be assigned more severe sanctions than if they did not have the prior offenses. These guidelines address status sanctions. In some cases additional sanctions (e.g., educational sanctions) may be assigned.
Sexual Assault Sanctioning
Sexual assault is one form of sexual misconduct. Students who commit sexual assault, as defined in the university policy on Sexual Misconduct Involving Students will experience serious repercussions.
The university policy on Sexual Misconduct Involving Students identifies three examples of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault: Non-consensual Sexual Intercourse
University policy describes sexual intercourse as ‘intercourse, however slight, meaning vaginal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact).’
Sanctions for non-consensual sexual intercourse will normally range from multi-semester suspension to expulsion from the university, with expulsion being the most likely sanction.
Sexual Assault: Attempted Sexual Intercourse
Sanctions for attempted sexual intercourse will normally range from probation to expulsion.
Sexual Assault: Non-Consensual Sexual Touching
University policy provides examples of sexual touching that include ‘intentional contact with the breasts, buttock, groin, or genitals, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another touch you or themselves with or on any of these body parts.’
Sanctions for non-consensual sexual touching will normally range from probation to expulsion from the university.
Certain factors will lead to more severe sanctions when they are present as part of a violation of the sexual misconduct policy. These include:
Use of force, use of a weapon, or display of a weapon
The involvement of multiple perpetrators
Isolation (physical, social, or otherwise)
Intentional incapacitation (using alcohol, drugs, or by other means)