Sexual harassment and sexual assault are major problems on college campuses, and while Title IX is best known for creating opportunities in women’s athletics, it is now being used to hold universities accountable for sexual assault response and prevention. In an episode of SCI TV, attorney Paul Greene of Global Sports Advocates explains what Title IX means for university administrators dealing with sexual assault and how schools can get in front of this issue to protect students.
What does Title IX do?
In the last 15 years Title IX protections have expanded to include sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses. At the end of 2014 there were 94 colleges and universities undergoing Title IX sexual violence investigations ranging from Division I powerhouses to Division III ivies. These incidents involve teachers, coaches and student to student situations.
Under Title IX a university can be held liable for a sexual assault if someone in a leadership role was deliberately indifferent to a sexual predator on campus. Essentially that means universities can’t turn a blind eye to assaults and expect to avoid legal repercussions.
“If the warning signs were there…that indifference is enough to have the school on the hook for liability,” Greene said. “It’s not simply enough to hold up your hands and say we had no idea. That doesn’t work.”
Raising a Red Flag
A culture of sexual harassment within a team or department can also factor into a university’s liability and make it difficult for students to raise concerns or file charges. Greene stresses the importance of making space for students to come forward without fear of reprisal from coaches or the university.
“A student athlete is not going to want to tell their coach something that might affect their ability to stay in the school,” said Greene. “They’ll just keep it to themselves if they’re afraid that telling somebody will end up having negative consequences. These are high stakes things for students.”
Having the Right Policy in Place
To be effective, The Sports Lawyers Association recommends policies addressing sexual assault meet the following criteria: strong confidentiality, timeliness in reporting incidents, multiple ways to report an incident, ability to talk to police and neutral officials, no contact between victim and the accused, protection of evidence, and a campus hearing parallel to a formal investigation.
“You don’t want anyone to say the school botched the investigation after it ended,” Greene said.
When a situation arises, a sexual assault policy is only as effective as how well university staff are trained to respond.
“Maybe it’s on a piece of paper, but they don’t have a game plan in place or they don’t practice what would happen,” Greene said. “It’s not that easy when you have a high stakes emotional situation to make sure that everything is done properly.”