Five Questions to Ask: Sexual Assault & Title IX

  1. Is your campus following the requirements of Title IX? The Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter of 2011 and the Violence Against Women Act lay out specific requirements for colleges related to enforcing Title IX and protecting students from sexual assault. They include having a designated Title IX coordinator on staff, and writing and publicizing grievance procedures. The staff involved must have experience dealing with sexual harassment and sexual violence. Find out if the campuses you cover are doing what is required.

  2. How is your campus punishing perpetrators of sexual assault? A number of campuses have faced criticism for failing to punish severely enough students found responsible of sexual assault. Of course, they can levy no higher punishment than expulsion, but many colleges often hand down lesser punishments.  They are wary, however, of mandatory sentences, given that campus judicial proceedings are not criminal courts,  some cases are particularly complex, and – as institutions – they are less than willing s to give up flexibility in handling cases. Try to find out if your campus is letting students off the hook, and — if so — ask what explanations they offer.
  3. What is the process a student goes through to report a sexual assault on your campus? Start with an informational meeting with your campus police and ask the details of how they address reports of rape on campus, tracking the process from the student health center to the Title IX administrators, then follow up with the offices they mention. Getting acquainted with this process and these sources will prepare you for when — and if — an incident occurs, and sometimes can generate leads for stories.
  4. What issues are the women’s-rights student groups on your campus addressing? On many campuses, preventing sexual assault is a core element of these groups’ agendas. While there could be many controversial and sensitive issues to navigate in such discussions, they also might yield important story ideas.
  5. What proportion of the overall crime on the campus you cover is alcohol-related? Often cited as a contributing factor to reports of sexual assault, alcohol also figures prominently in many other campus crimes. While it may be difficult to determine an exact number, by combining Clery Act data and interviews with university police and other officials, you may get a shockingly high number.