Student Education on Title IX and Consent
In the wake of the fourth wave of feminism and the emerging conversation about sexual violence on college campuses, many colleges have begun instituting new policies and training to educate their students about Title IX, sexual violence, and consent. For example, George Mason University has mandatory Title IX training for all students that must be completed in their first semester at the school. Many other colleges have similar mandatory training and are making clear their policies about sexual assault and consent.
In as early as 2014, Virginia Commonwealth University created a new online mandatory training course for all students. The University requires that all students complete this training course that covers such topics as sexual violence prevention, bystander intervention, and risk reduction. The training is being conducted in coordination with the school’s Title IX office. The purpose of the training is to curb sexual misconduct and gender discrimination on the school’s campus. The university will also be running a variety of different on campus events and programs to educate students on Title IX issues. Mandatory student training is one popular way that colleges are choosing to use to educate their students on this topic.
Similarly, in 2019, the University of New Mexico released a survey to their student population to gather insight on how to institute mandatory training on sexual violence for their students and faculty. The survey included items to assess the current climate on campus in relation to sexual intimidation, harassment, and assault. The results of the survey were then used by the university to assess their approach to sexual violence on their campus for the purpose of creating new programs that educate students on this subject. This survey is similar to others being used by other universities in a study being conducted by the University of Kentucky in conjunction with the CDC. This survey is a key example of ways that colleges are trying to educate their students about sexual violence on their campuses, and of how colleges are now listening to students’ opinions about this topic. The survey comes at a time when social media movements advocating for victims to speak up against their abusers are trending all across the nation. This survey shows how these social media campaigns, such as the #MeToo and #TimesUP movements, are directly influencing how colleges choose to educate their students about sexual violence and consent.
Beyond only sexual violence and consent training, the University of Hawaii is implementing even broader training on many other concepts involved in the harmful sexual violence culture that exists on campuses. The University of Hawaii is implementing new actions and programs in conjunction with its Title IX office, similar to many other universities. These programs include encouraging students to own their sexualities, teaching bystander intervention, and training in recognizing and thwarting predatory behaviors. The university is hoping that these new programs will help educate and change student opinions on sexual misconduct and “hookup culture”. This new training program was brought on as many people are beginning the conversation about misogynistic young men on college campuses, and how changing the opinions of these men is difficult, but these policies will help make it easier for victims to come forward. Students of the university were quoted as saying that the new policies help to empower both male and female students at the university, especially with the new affirmative consent definition.
Many other higher education institutions have also chosen to change their definition of consent to affirmative consent and clearly define this new definition in their sexual assault policies. Affirmative consent is a move away from the usual notion of ‘no means no’ to the new idea of ‘yes means yes’. This new definition of consent has been brought on by a larger discussion on college campuses about how students navigate sexual encounters. Many schools are also now requiring that students attend programs, workshops, or training about consent and sexual misconduct in conjunction with Title IX offices. These new policies are implemented in hopes of educating and changing current student opinions about sexual misconduct and harassment.
Some researchers have begun conducting studies to better assess how easily accessible definitions of consent and sexual assault policy guidelines are to students. A study conducted by Graham et al. in 2017 attempted to assess how many colleges and universities in the United States had clear and accessible policies for sexual assault, as well as definitions of consent, on their websites. The study also assessed how certain characteristics of the schools that have previously been linked to the prevalence of campus sexual assaults also related to whether the schools had clear sexual assault policies and definitions of consent on their websites. The study found that 93% of four-year colleges that held classes on their campus had clearly defined sexual assault policies on their websites, and 87.6% had consent definitions as well. The study also found that larger schools with more public funding were more likely than smaller private schools to have easily accessible sexual assault definitions online. Interestingly, the study also found that the New England area had the highest percentage of schools that included not only a consent definition but an extended one, while the Mideast had the highest percentage of schools that had no definition of consent on their website. This study shows that most colleges in the United States have easily accessible sexual assault policies and consent definitions on their websites. This is a significant change brought on by the intersection of Title IX and widespread social media campaigns advocating for an end to sexual violence.
1. “Mandatory Student Training Aims to Combat Sexual Violence,” US Fed News Service, Including US State News, September 24, 2014, http://www.proquest.com/central/docview/1564369171/citation/A313CE55A02F4138PQ/2.
2. “Work Continues: Ending Sexual Violence on Campus,” US Fed News Service, Including US State News, March 4, 2019, http://www.proquest.com/central/docview/2187692652/citation/A313CE55A02F4138PQ/19.
3. Christine Donnelly, “Consent on Campus,” Honolulu Star - Advertiser, February 22, 2015, sec. Editorial Premium, http://www.proquest.com/central/docview/1657265440/abstract/F3CA6DA9FEC54A02PQ/32.
4. Bonnie Miller Rubin, “Rethinking Consent: When ‘Yes Means Yes.’: To Combat Sexual Assault, Colleges Seek to Replace ‘No Means No’ with Explicit Affirmation,” Chicago Tribune, November 1, 2015, sec. News, http://www.proquest.com/central/docview/1728512586/abstract/F3CA6DA9FEC54A02PQ/35.
5. Laurie M. Graham et al., “Sexual Assault Policies and Consent Definitions: A Nationally Representative Investigation of U.S. Colleges and Universities,” Journal of School Violence 16, no. 3 (July 3, 2017): 243–58, https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2017.1318572.