In early May, the U.S. Department of Education issued new rules for how colleges and universities must respond to allegations of sexual misconduct on campus. At around the same time, Senior Research Scientist Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., who directs WCW’s Justice and Gender Based Violence Research Initiative, completed a research project on how colleges currently respond to sexual assault allegations.
Beginning in January 2016, Williams and her team examined the range and scope of policies and practices at institutions of higher education in the U.S., documenting and classifying the current landscape of campus responses. The first step, informed by a victim-centered focus, was a web-based search of a randomly selected sample of 969 four-year colleges and universities, followed by interviews with 47 Title IX coordinators across the country. The team included Senior Scholar April Pattavina, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar Alison Cares, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist Nan Stein, Ed.D., and Operations Manager Mary Frederick. The project was funded by the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Based on our research, many colleges will have to make adjustments to their policies and procedures before August 15, when they are required to implement these new rules,” said Williams. “They will lose some of the flexibility they previously had to tailor their approaches to their communities. And they will be required to behave more like the criminal justice system, which goes against their mission to be educators rather than adjudicators.”