Sexual Assault & Title IX
In 2018, Meghan Irons and her colleagues at the Boston Globe set out to document a troubling paradox: Their city is famous for its world-class universities, but working-class Bostonians were largely failing to thrive there and move up the economic ladder.
For years, students have filed sexual assault complaints under pseudonyms, which allow them to seek justice without shame or fear of being targeted. Universities have generally accepted the practice.
But in two recent lawsuits — a case against Florida A&M University and a suit by nine women against Dartmouth College — the schools have demanded that students publicly reveal their identities, going against longstanding legal practice intended to protect plaintiffs in sensitive disputes.
Lessons From the Higher Ed Beat
David Jesse of Detroit Free Press wins top EWA Award for coverage of MSU, Larry Nassar scandal
(EWA Radio: Episode 206)
Reporter David Jesse’s scoops went so deep in covering the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal at Michigan State University that some campus officials wondered if he was being cc’ed on internal emails. Nassar, a physician affiliated with MSU’s athletics program, was sentenced to 70 years in prison for sexually abusing students who were his patients at the campus clinic, as well as members of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. The university’s president also resigned in the wake of the fallout. Jesse, who’s been covering higher education at the Detroit Free Press for nearly a decade, won the Moskowitz Prize in this year’s EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.
EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This year’s event in Baltimore, hosted by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, will explore an array of timely topics of interest to journalists from across the country, with a thematic focus on student success, safety, and well-being.
There’s no one way to get a great data story on the education beat. You can start with a hunch, dig for data, and then humanize the story with on-the-ground reporting. Or you can start with the people and work back to the data.
Stellar journalists described both of these approaches at a recent Education Writers Association event, in a session called “How I Did the (Teacher) Story.”
As a new academic year looms, education journalists face an age-old challenge: What are the best ways to take a fresh approach to back-to-school coverage and lay a solid foundation for a year of hard-hitting reporting?
The Education Writers Association will hold its 2018 Higher Education Seminar Sept. 24-25 on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The theme of this year’s intensive training event for journalists will be “Navigating Rapid Change.” This journalist-only event will offer two days of high-impact learning opportunities. The seminar will focus on how both postsecondary education and journalism are adjusting to an increasingly divisive political environment, the decline of traditional revenue sources, and continuing technological innovations that are upending much of the economy.
Careful Coverage of Campus Sexual Assaults Can Spark Reforms
Experts offer four strategies for reporting on Title IX complaints.
Reporters are spending more and more time covering allegations of sexual assault on college campuses. A Nexis search finds more than 3,000 articles in U.S. newspapers in the last year using the terms “sexual assault,” “alleged” and “campus.”
Top Higher Ed Stories for the 2018-19 Academic Year
Politics is driving some of the hottest news stories on college campuses.
Some of the most pressing higher education stories for the next academic year will spring from the intersection of education and politics, predicts Scott Jaschik, the editor of Inside Higher Ed.
Jaschik reprised his always-popular rundown of the top higher education story ideas during the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar in May.
They were top athletes and honor-roll students, children struggling to read and teenagers seeking guidance.
But then they became prey, among the many students raped or sexually abused during the last decade by trusted adults working in the Chicago Public Schools as district officials repeated obvious child-protection mistakes.
Their lives were upended, their futures clouded and their pain unacknowledged as a districtwide problem was kept under wraps. A Tribune analysis indicates that hundreds of students were harmed.
You file a freedom of information request with your local school district concerning financial data or a personnel investigation, but months later, there’s still no answer. What are the next steps, especially if your newsroom’s budget can’t stretch to cover the costs of suing for access? A veteran journalist and an expert on records requests offer strategies for success in making inquiries at the federal, state and local levels.
2018: What’s Ahead on the Education Beat
Betsy DeVos, Tax Reform, and DACA in the spotlight (EWA Radio: Episode 153)
Veteran education journalists Greg Toppo of USA Today and Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed offer predictions on the education beat for the coming year, as well as story ideas to help reporters cover emerging federal policies and trends that will impact students and educators at the state and local level. Top items on their watchlists include the effect of the so-called “Trump Effect on classrooms, and whether the revamped tax law will mean big hits to university endowments.
EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This multiday conference provides participants with top-notch training delivered through dozens of interactive sessions on covering education from early childhood through graduate school. Featuring prominent speakers, engaging campus visits, and plentiful networking opportunities, this must-attend conference provides participants with deeper understanding of the latest developments in education, a lengthy list of story ideas, and a toolbox of sharpened journalistic skills.
If you missed EWA’s webinar, It’s Greek to Me: How to Report on Media-Averse Fraternities, the two speakers had plenty of resources to share with reporters looking to beef up their stories with experts and nationally culled data.
In the last several weeks, reports of hazing, racist attacks and pledge deaths have prompted at least eight universities to suspended fraternity chapters — and in some cases all Greek-affiliated organizations — on campus.
Fraternities and sororities have become the center of some of higher education’s most troubling stories. There are deaths of pledges, parties that become scenes for sexual `assault, and historically racist standards for entry that also perpetuate inequity with prohibitive annual fees and dress codes.
Beth Slovic, a longtime education journalist in Portland, Oregon, was making dinner for her family when she noticed a bearded guy on a bicycle pulling up outside her house.
Slovic thought maybe one of her neighbors had ordered takeout. Instead, the man, a process server, came to her front door: Portland Public Schools was suing to block her public-information request for employee records.
From heated debates over free speech to the Trump administration’s threats to deport undocumented students, these are tense times on college campuses. For reporters who cover higher education, questions abound and important stories need to be told.
On Oct. 2-3, EWA will bring together journalists at Georgia State University in Atlanta to explore pressing issues in education after high school. (Here’s the preliminary agenda.) At this journalist-only seminar you will hear:
Monday, October 2, 2017
9:45– 11:30 a.m.: (Optional) Journalists’ Tour of CNN
CNN has graciously agreed to give 20 EWA members a journalists-only tour of their newsroom, and a chance to talk with members of CNN’s newsgathering, digital and data analysis teams to learn about their state-of-the art techniques of building traffic. The tour will start at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 2 at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters, located at One CNN Center, Atlanta, GA 30303. Please be at the entryway at 9:45 a.m. so you can go through security.
Covering an alleged sexual assault is a difficult assignment for any journalist. Education reporters have to deal with the added complication of Title IX, the 39-page federal law that addresses sexual discrimination in education.
School finance. A bilingual ed townhall meeting. Christian-oriented universities recruiting Hispanic students. Here’s a wrap-up of education stories published the week of July 3-9 involving or affecting Latino students.
Kimberly Hefling of Politico discusses the new U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who was confirmed Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate. What will be her top priorities moving forward? How aggressively will the new secretary push school choice, and how likely is President Trump’s $20 billion school choice plan to gain traction? Has DeVos lost political capital during the bruising confirmation process? Was she held to a higher standard than other nominees for President Trump’s cabinet? And how much power will the Republican mega-donor have to roll back the Obama administration’s education policies and initiatives?
A Senate committee is slated to vote tomorrow on President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education — philanthropist and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos. The Education Department is one of the newer federal departments, created during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and beginning its work in May of 1980.
Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for billionaire school advocate Betsy DeVos — President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. secretary of education — was a doozy.
DeVos sought to present herself as ready to oversee the federal agency, but some of her remarks suggested a lack of familiarity with the federal laws governing the nation’s schools.
In her opening statement before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos said:
It’s shaping up to be a contentious year on the education beat, fueled in part by Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election.
Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.
Liz McMillen, the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, looks back at a half-century of milestone stories, memorable headlines, and key moments on the national higher education beat, many of which continue to echo today. Among them: equity and diversity, classroom technology, and free speech on campus. She discusses the Chronicle’s commitment to narrative journalism, lessons to be learned by looking back, and what’s ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities.
Benjamin Wermund of Politico discusses the uncertainties ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities following the presidential election. While Donald Trump has offered few specifics on education policy, his surrogates suggest he will reverse course on many initiatives put in place under President Obama. That could have a significant impact on areas like Title IX enforcement, federal funding for research, and more. Higher education leaders are also facing a surge in reports of hate crimes and harassment on campuses that were already struggling with issues of free speech and diversity.
With colleges and universities under increased pressure to ensure that more students earn degrees without amassing mountains of debt, journalists are at the forefront in examining how these institutions measure up. But there’s one major obstacle that both colleges and reporters share when it comes to making sense of how well these schools are meeting their goals: insufficient data.
Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jaschik started his annual listing of higher education stories ripe for coverage this upcoming year by asking journalists to do better when choosing which news developments to cover.
In May, just before Jaschik’s presentation at the Education Writers Association’s conference in Boston, President Obama’s daughter Malia had recently committed to attending Harvard University and taking a “gap year.”
For education reporters, coming up with fresh ideas for back-to-school stories is an annual ritual. And if you’re balancing the K-12 and higher education beats, it can be an even bigger challenge.
It’s a challenging time for colleges and universities: There’s little patience for school leaders seen as lagging in their response to campus controversies; social media is reshaping, and amplifying, student activism; and there is a growing push for accountability, including measuring faculty quality.
For reporters covering colleges and universities, The Chronicle of Higher Education has put together a valuable new resource: an online tool for searching, and tracking, federal investigations into potential Title IX violations involving sexual assault allegations.
There are currently close to 250 in the Chronicle’s database, with just under 20 percent of them listed as “resolved.” The average duration for an investigation is one year, two months.
What new techniques and practices should higher education embrace to ensure that more students graduate? Join the Education Writers Association September 16–17 at Arizona State University to explore cutting-edge innovations that aim to address financial, academic, and social barriers. More on the seminar theme.
This annual seminar is one of the largest gatherings of journalists covering postsecondary education. Network with others covering this beat and step up your coverage for the upcoming academic year.
In the wake of the demonstrations at the University of Missouri that led to the resignation of the university’s president, student protests over racial inequality and campus climate have spread to colleges across the country. Though the demonstrations have included a broad range of minority groups and white students, they have predominantly been organized by black students. At a handful of institutions, however, white students have tried to lead the rallies, prompting accusations that these students are engaging in the same kind of behavior as those they are protesting.
In a word, perspective.
The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.
Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.
Editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed Scott Jaschik’s panel “Top 10 Higher Ed Stories You Should Be Covering This Year” has attracted such a crowd every year that this year he began his presentation at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago by noting that he’d been asked in the halls whether he’d be charting new territory. Although some stories remain fixtures on his must-cover list, there are new trends that education reporters should track, he told the roughly 80 attendees.
EWA’s 68th National Seminar kicks off today in Chicago, and it’s going to be a fantastic three days of discussions, workshops, and site visits. The theme this year is Costs and Benefits: The Economics of Education. Be sure to keep tabs on all the action via the #EWA15 hashtag on Twitter.
Rolling Stone retracted its story that supposedly detailed a University of Virginia student’s brutal rape by several members of a campus fraternity, and a report by the Columbia University Journalism School called the debacle “a journalistic failure.”
While we can’t do anything about your dismal bracket selections, EWA can help reporters with story ideas for covering “March Madness” and college sports. Catch a replay of our recent webinar, which highlighted some smart ideas, the latest research, and expert sources on the intersection of higher education and athletics.
There’s a busy year ahead on the schools beat – I talked to reporters, policy analysts and educators to put together a cheat sheet to a few of the stories you can expect to be on the front burner in the coming months:
Revamping No Child Left Behind
We have two new episodes of EWA Radio this week, looking at the hot-button stories on the education beat in the coming year.
Two journalists, a local reporter who covers education in Bakersfield and national reporter for NPR, discuss how they approach their beats, reflect on surprises they encountered in 2014, and provide predictions for the stories of 2015. Teaser: What grabs attention nationally may not be on the minds of local readers.
A reporter who covers Ohio State University and a national higher-ed reporter discuss how their vantage points influence coverage. Does having a background in covering K-12 improve higher-ed reporting? Do national reporters benefit from living near flagship state universities? The guests also make predictions for stories to watch in 2015.
When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)
Since 2011, when the U.S. Department of Education made clear that schools’ failure to address incidents of sexual assault adequately could trigger Title IX penalties, this problem—which has long been a taboo topic in higher education—has become the flashpoint issue on campuses across the nation. Each new incident showcases conflicting perspectives, ranging from those of advocates who say colleges are failing victims to men who think the new policy guidelines are stacked against them. Some question whether institutions should even be involved or are these matters better left to police?
Earlier this month, Rolling Stone magazine published a story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, which resulted in outrage, shock, and a temporary suspension of all fraternities and sororities at the vaunted institution of higher education. But now, serious questions have been raised about freelance writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s reporting, as well as Rolling Stone’s decision to publish the story without stronger verification.
Follow-Up Friday: Adopting New Rules for School Discipline, Embracing Hispanic Heritage Helps Students
Earlier this week, my EWA colleague Mikhail Zinshteyn looked at California’s recent revisions to campus discipline policy, as state lawmakers voted to prohibit K-12 schools from using “willful defiance” as a device for meting out suspensions and expulsions of students.
California became the first state in the country to describe what is meant by “yes means yes” during sexual encounters when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Monday.
And it also puts the onus on California higher education institutions to reshape their sexual assault policies and reporting practices, as The Associated Press reported.
Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed talks to reporters at EWA’s 2014 Higher Education Seminar.
Recorded Sept. 6, 2014, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for EWA Summer School, our webinar series designed to help education reporters sharpen their skills, deepen their knowledge, and develop story ideas. If you missed out on the webinars the first time around, you can catch the replays:
Catch the replay of our July 17 webinar on all things FERPA.
For many college students — whether fresh out of high school or adults returning to school — their most serious obstacles to a degree won’t be homework or tests, but rather the challenges of navigating student life. Colleges are now being forced to face the longstanding problems that have often led to students’ flailing and failing on their own.
For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.
Higher education reporters have produced some first-rate stories in the past few days on a complex and critical topic: Title IX and campus sexual assault.
Researchers estimate that one in five American women is sexually assaulted in college, and Patrick Henry College’s unique campus culture has not insulated the school from sexual violence. In fact, it puts female students, like Claire Spear, in a particular bind: How do you report sexual assault at a place where authorities seem skeptical that such a thing even exists?
Unraveling the response to this incident, and where it seemed to go wrong and why, offers a glimpse into the complexity of responding to cases of sexual assault in study abroad, the competing legal frameworks that study abroad programs exist within, and the tensions that can result when the best interests of the institution and the student are arguably not one and the same.
Bystander intervention is so easy to grasp, even by the most inexperienced college freshman, that the program may well be the best hope for reducing sexual assaults on campuses. Mostly it is common sense: If a drunk young man at a party is pawing a drunk young woman, then someone nearby (the bystander) needs to step in (intervene) and get one of them out of there. Of course, that can be tricky at times.
This web page maintained by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center aggregates reports, guidebooks and other resources that address issues of sexual assaults on college campuses.
A national organization that provides legal support for survivors of sexual assault and “promote a national movement committed to seeking justice for every rape and sexual assault victim.” The VRLC “has provided legal representation to over 3,000 rape and sexual assault victims to assist in stabilizing and rebuilding their lives following a traumatic, and potentially life-threatening, assault.”
The IACLEA “was created by eleven college and university security directors who met in November of 1958 at Arizona State University to discuss job challenges and mutual problems, and to create a clearinghouse for information and issues shared by campus public safety directors across the country. Today, IACLEA membership represents more than 1,200 colleges and universities in 20 countries.”
A nonprofit organization that grew out the initiatives led Connie and Howard Clery after their daughter was raped and murdered in 1986 by a classmate on the campus of Lehigh University. Their advocacy to get colleges to release information about crime on campus led to the Clery Act, which mandates the report of such information.
The Huffington Post tracked the colleges that are under investigation, face complaints or have received significant criticism for their handling of sexual violence on campus, and plotted them on an interactive map.
In fiscal year 2013, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights received 30 complaints against colleges and universities alleging failures in the way the schools handled cases of sexual violence. That was nearly double the previous year’s tally of 17.
The University of Missouri did not investigate or tell law enforcement officials about an alleged rape, possibly by one or more members of its football team, despite administrators finding out about the alleged 2010 incident more than a year ago, an “Outside the Lines” investigation has found. The alleged victim, a member of the swim team, committed suicide in 2011.
I’ll admit it – I look forward every fall when Scott Jaschik shares his “cheat sheet”of story ideas at EWA’s annual Higher Education Seminar.This year we met at Northeastern University, and Scott didn’t disappoint.We asked journalists who attended the seminar to contribute posts, and today’s guest blogger is Michael Vasquez of the Miami Herald.For more on higher education issues, including community colleges,
As a growing movement of campus rape survivors pushes colleges to change how they handle sexual assault—often directing criticism at top administrators and filing extensive complaints with the Department of Education—presidents have struggled to find the right way to respond. Do they roll up their sleeves, cancel classes, and encourage all-out dialogue? Bring in a big-name consultant to try to fix the problem? List all the efforts that signal the institution’s commitment to handling this charged issue sensitively and fairly?
Justin Pope of the Associated Press talks about how he approached the timely and difficult topic of how universities are applying the Title IX gender discrimination law to sexual assault cases. Pope’s coverage won a special citation in Single-Topic News, Series or Feature in a Large Newsroom in EWA’s 2012 National Awards for Education Reporting.
Among the legal questions still swirling around Penn State, one has drawn little attention but could pose a threat to the university: Did the school’s handling of sex abuse allegations against assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky violate the federal Title IX gender discrimination law?
A closed- door encounter between two college acquaintances. Both have been drinking. One says she was raped; the other insists it was consensual. There are no other witnesses. It’s a common scenario in college sexual assault cases, and a potential nightmare to resolve. But under the 40-year-old federal gender equity law Title IX — and guidance handed down last year by the Obama administration on how to apply it — colleges can’t just turn such cases over to criminal prosecutors, who often won’t touch them anyway.
June marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the federal gender-equity law that has made headlines mostly on the sports pages. But over the last decade or so, through a series of court rulings and more recently controversial guidance published by Obama administration, Title IX has shifted onto a different patch of contentious terrain — sexual assault on college campuses. It is transforming how colleges must respond to allegations of sexual violence.
Here’s a tip for college journalists contemplating wading into
the murky waters of satire: There pretty much isn’t anything
funny about Hitler.
The gray zone between edgy humor and offensive language can be tough to navigate, even for experienced writers. In recent weeks, students from Boston University, the University of Missouri, and Rutgers University have found themselves under fire for satirical editions of their campus publications.
I’m in Phoenix for the next few days at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. EWA is helping out with IRE’s (Investigative Reporters and Editors) third annual Campus Coverage Project conference. Roughly 75 of the nation’s top college journalists were selected to spend four days learning the latest techniques and tips for writing investigative stories.
This document outlines the guidelines it expects colleges to follow regarding addressing issues of student sexual assaults.
Chapter 8 of this guidebook outlining federal reporting requirement details the practices colleges should use addressing incidents of sexual violence on campus.
This report surveyed 6,800 undergraduates at two large public universities and found “13.7% of undergraduate women had been victims of at least one completed sexual assault since entering college.”
This earlier report estimated “that the women at a college that has 10,000 female students could experience more than 350 rapes a year.”