Apr 292014

us-whitehouse-logoAs the media is widely reporting this morning, the White House has issued its anticipated report on campus sexual assault. Entitled, “Not Alone”, the 20 page report addresses the need for campus climate surveys, engaging men in the prevention of sexual assault, developing effective responses when an assault is reported, and improving transparency and enforcement. For convenience, I have linked the report here.

Just as importantly, the Office for Civil Rights has also released its long awaited set of guidelines in response to many questions raised in the wake of the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. This is a far more fascinating read, as many practical questions directed to OCR during the past three years have received either mixed answers, or resulted only in verbal guidance. This 46 page document (linked here) addresses very practical and immediate questions on school obligations to respond, students protected by Title IX, procedural requirements, responsible employees and reporting, confidentiality, investigations and hearings, interim measures, remedies and notice of outcome, appeals, and several other topics.

Obviously, many of us will now spend weeks scouring these documents to look for ways to make improvements to our processes. The reports come in the wake of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s issuance of a survey to 350 college and university presidents to determine how schools handle rapes and sexual assault on campus. McCaskill indicated she is focusing in particular on how those crimes are reported and investigated and how students are notified about the services available to them.

I have only given each document one reading so far, but my initial reaction is that both documents can be of great value to colleges and universities. In particular, I was glad to see a number of very specific situations addressed in the OCR guidelines, and expect OCR’s many concrete answers to be of value to policy makers and practitioners alike. I will post with more details once I have read them again and can spare some writing time.

 Comments Off on White House issues report on campus sexual assault; OCR issues new guidelines on sexual violence
Feb 212014

White HouseAs has been well publicized, President Barack Obama recently established a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The overarching goals of this group, by order of the President, are:

(i) providing examples of instructions, policies, and protocols for institutions, including: rape and sexual assault policies; prevention programs; crisis intervention and advocacy services; complaint and grievance procedures; investigation protocols; adjudicatory procedures; disciplinary sanctions; and training and orientation modules for students, staff, and faculty;

(ii) measuring the success of prevention and response efforts at institutions, whether through compliance with individual policies or through broader assessments of campus climate, attitudes and safety, and providing the public with this information;

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Feb 202014

FirePart Two: Deceitful Hysteria Continues Around Campus Sexual Assault

I am going to begin part two of this article with a personal disclosure. My politics are that of a liberal libertarian, where I believe in social safety nets, I oppose unfair income divides that are rooted in social injustice and corporate welfare, and I believe strongly in personal privacy, being of the opinion that government has no business in the bedrooms of its citizens or taking away choices involving the human body, most notably in the area of reproductive rights. I also believe in science over creationism, believe that climate change is real and strongly influenced by human activity, and believe most fiercely in the separation of church and state. By basis of comparison, my politics are very similar to those of Mahatma Gandhi, Noam Chomsky, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. Yep, I’m a lefty.

I say this not to promote my personal point of view, but instead to be genuine and transparent about the lens through which I view the world. Further, I respect that other people view the world differently and I do not claim that other views are inferior, no matter how much I believe in my own perspective. However, the basis for this respect rests on a respectful articulation of one’s point of view, and utilizing objective and demonstrable facts, rather than altering facts to meet one’s point of view. At the very least, people making arguments who are simply relying on their opinion should be clear that they are speaking an opinion, as opposed to articulating that opinion as ultimate truth. As a former conservative (believe it or not), I can actually understand the views of reasonable people on the right, and in some cases can either empathize or even agree with people who hold a more conservative perspective.

The Connection between FIRE and the Right Wing Media

So how did an article on Title IX morph into politics? In my view, FIRE has opened this door by virtue of the company it keeps.

In just the past three months, six pieces citing FIRE have made their way into publication at the Wall Street Journal, taking FIRE’s position as gospel that American colleges and universities have run amuck in depriving students of their free speech rights. It’s worse on Fox, where no less than 90 stories dating back to 2001 can be found of their website. By comparison, searches for FIRE on CNN and MSNBC find no current archive of stories explicitly involving FIRE. Similarly, the three major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) maintain a total of twelve stories involving FIRE over the entirety of the organization’s fifteen year existence.

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Feb 182014

FireLet’s start this article with an axiom.

Student conduct practitioners and student conduct boards are not asked, nor are they qualified, to determine if a student’s alleged actions constitute a crime as defined by federal, state, or local law. Further, student conduct practitioners and student conduct boards are not empowered to deprive a student of the rights of life, liberty, and property as defined in the Constitution of the United States of America or any of its Amendments.

When one understands and recognizes this basic starting point for a conversation involving college and university student conduct processes, it becomes difficult to understand the continued assault on these processes by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), or by FIRE’s mouthpieces at the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Or at least it would be difficult to understand, if FIRE and their allies were using actual logic supported by evidence. Of course they are not.

The truth is that FIRE has been far more about hysteria than fact all along, and the purpose of this two part article will be to deconstruct some of the “logic” being applied by FIRE, the WSJ, and by Fox News, and to offer my own opinion on what is really driving the current irrational assault on student conduct processes, as well as to offer guidance on responding to FIRE’s recent push to include attorneys in campus conduct proceedings.

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 Comments Off on Extinguishing a False FIRE (Part One)
Aug 252013

I had been wanting to get back to blogging this week in the midst of working on several projects, but I wasn’t too motivated to make it a priority until I caught this little gem in the news. This comes to us from our friends at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):

This week North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill granting public university students in the state facing non-academic disciplinary charges the right to an attorney. The law, which is the first of its kind nationwide, ensures that students attending the state’s public colleges and universities possess rights similar to those already enjoyed by North Carolina’s K–12 students under state law. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) worked with a bipartisan group of state legislators to enact the protection into law.

“Students across America are regularly tried in campus courts for serious offenses like theft, harassment, and even rape. Being labeled a felon and kicked out by your college carries serious, life-altering consequences. Because the stakes are so high, students should have the benefit of an attorney to ensure the hearing is conducted fairly and by the rules,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “We are immensely gratified that the legislature and governor of North Carolina have taken this critical step in giving students a fair chance for justice.”

Since I don’t personally know Robert Shibley, I will withhold any opinions I may have have formed about him by virtue of reading this story. And I would call Mr. Shibley’s comments uninformed, but I highly doubt that Mr. Shibley is uninformed. Therefore, I can only surmise that Mr. Shibley’s comments are intentionally deceptive, and that he has pulled a fast one on state politicians in North Carolina. Given some of the other interesting pieces of legislation that have come out of the Tar Heel state (see the recent pieces of legislation on voting restrictions [worst voter suppression law in the nation], ending Sharia law [talk about a solution without a problem], and allowing the concealed carry of weapons in bars [because that couldn’t possibly go wrong]), I can’t claim that it is hard to mislead that state’s politicians, especially when they seem to want to be misled. So let me take a moment, albeit after the fact, to offer a lesson in higher education and the law, that legislators in North Carolina either missed, ignored, or were deprived of.

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 Comments Off on FIRE wins a battle, continues to mislead about the war
May 102013

We have made it to the end of another academic year, and I will take a few minutes to pause and reflect before diving into the projects that have been unattended to as the result of a very busy spring. We have commencement ceremonies tonight and tomorrow, and I am very happy for the students that I have worked with who will be graduating this weekend.

I have finished my final class towards my doctorate degree, and am now in the process of writing my dissertation proposal, with the hopes of conducting my research in the fall before writing and defending the final product. My study is focusing on the self-efficacy of practitioners to manage conflict in the student conduct setting, with student conduct including adjudicatory processes, mediation, restorative justice practices, conflict coaching, and other forums of resolution. I have identified a host institution and am really looking forward to getting underway, with the hopes of being able to participate in my own commencement ceremony next May. 🙂

This summer is focused on getting the doctoral proposal submitted, as well as moving forward on some NCHERM projects. One thing I am very excited about is the upcoming new mediation curriculum, which I am hoping will be done by the end of the summer. We have been using some of the new material in training programs, and the revised curriculum is definitely an upgrade over the older Mastering Mediation materials. More information will follow about the completion of these materials, as well as when and where they will be available for campuses to purchase.

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May 242012

I haven’t done much updating of late, as I have been busy with many different projects. More information will follow during the summer, but here’s a re-cap of what I’ve been up to.

Rick at Chamber of Commerce

Rick keynotes Chamber of Commerce educational conference

On May 17, I had the opportunity to keynote a McLean County Chamber of Conference EDUCate conference with the theme of “Who changed the game? The new rules of work.” I presented an hour long speech on conflict management in both the work place and at home to over 90 participants in attendance. I then facilitated an hour long follow-up breakout session on conflict management styles. Thanks to all thos who were in attendance for your participation and excellent questions. Many thanks to Brian Davis at the Chamber for his gracious invitation. Continue reading »

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May 242012

From the NCHERM-CR website:

Summit on the Application of Restorative Justice Practice to Cases of Campus Sexual Misconduct


The NCHERM-CR, the Conflict Resolution Practice Group of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (www.ncherm.org), will be hosting a two-day invitational Summit on the use of restorative justice practices in student-on-student sexual misconduct cases.

This Summit is being convened to explore ways in which forms of conflict resolution, and especially restorative justice practices, may be utilized lawfully, productively and beneficially to improve on the traditional approaches used in student disciplinary proceedings.

The goals of the Summit are two-fold; to develop a set of model best practices for use on college and university campuses and to empower the creation of a pilot project to implement and research the effectiveness of the model.

Three colleges have agreed to send delegates to the Summit and to serve for a year as pilot sites for the model. Vassar College, Franklin & Marshall College and Colgate University will be working with the consultants from NCHERM-CR to demonstrate effectiveness so that the model can eventually be implemented for all interested colleges and universities.

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Feb 142012

The week of February 1-7 proved to be quite an interesting one in my life, both personally and professionally. I started the week traveling to the annual conference of the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA), my first trip back to ASCA since they moved their conference location from Clearwater Beach, FL to St, Pete Beach, FL. The new location at the Tradewinds is a great choice, and the staff there demonstrated exceptional customer service and attention to detail throughout my visit. I began the conference by proposing to my partner Sandra (she accepted), so the week could have ended right there and I would have been happy.

But the week did not end there; it was only beginning. The conference focused heavily on issues surrounding Title IX, threat assessment, and conflict resolution. Perhaps the best session came right away in the conference when Brett Sokolow, Bernice Sandler, Wendy Murphy, and Nancy Hogshead-Makar presented a powerful session on Title IX and the Dear Colleague Letter. Sandler in particular was a treat to hear, given her history and deep involvement in Title IX. The follow up question and answer session was equally entertaining and enlightening.

The conference also saw the public introduction of NCHERM-CR, a professional practice group out of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM). As the “CR” designation suggests, this group focuses on conflict resolution strategies beyond the adjudication of student conduct, focusing on mediation, conflict coaching, and restorative justice. I am honored that Brett Sokolow has asked me to chair this group, which at present includes such talented professionals as Chris Loschiavo (University of Florida), David Karp (Skidmore College), and Matt Gregory (LSU). We are currently developing our program menu and considering our initial projects as we launch what we hope will be a transformational effort in the area of student conduct and conflict resolution. I feel a debt of gratitude to Brett Sokolow, who sees this opportunity to benefit our profession and to give life to a network of professionals, several of us of whom were struggling to advance the former Campus Mediation Project. We will be adding more professionals over time, as well as working with consultants on a project by project basis. I am very excited about the work that we have to do. I am also now beginning the re-write of my original mediation training materials, which I expect to complete by summer in advance of the 2012-2013 training calendar.

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 Comments Off on What a week!
May 172011

From Rick:

First, I want to thank all of the people who either left comments on my last entry or who took the time to write me kind words. “OCR versus the One-Trick Pony” and my other DCL entries generated a lot more traffic and feedback than I expected, further reinforcing my belief that educators see this as a very important discussion.

Beyond the DCL letter being an important point of discussion, it is also becoming clear that FIRE is being exposed as an organization with a political agenda and as an organization that is either unable or unwilling to take a reasoned position in order to promote collegial discourse. There is nothing collegial about FIRE, and their alarmist hyperbole about grand conspiracies that lack evidence reveals their true nature. Last week’s continued assault on the preponderance test is an excellent example of projecting hysteria over facts, and served as fodder for a close friend and colleague, Dan Kast, to write a response which will appear in detail in an article in the Summer 2011 issue of the Journal of Campus Safety & Student Development. I have had an opportunity to preview it and promise that people will not be disappointed with Dan’s reasoned but pointed response.

Like myself, Dan also had some strong reactions to FIRE’s hyperbole and took specific aim at a separate article written by Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Director of Speech Code Research. I won’t talk much about Dan’s response, since he has been kind enough to forward it to me to share via this blog. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed this piece immensely, and once again find Dan’s logic to be solid and his argument pointed. Enjoy the read!

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