Mar 262015

March on ISU Quad

So I guess it’s time for me to start catching up on the blogging again. There’s been plenty to blog about of late but precious little time to do so.

What spurred me to get back to writing was a terrific event held by our students at Illinois State last night. Given all of the recent bad news that fraternities have been on the receiving end of lately, almost always at their own invitation, it was quite refreshing to see our Greek community stand up last night and say they don’t want to live in an environment where racism is acceptable. The conversation began when members of our Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) colony, the same group under fire at the University of Oklahoma, went to our Interfraternity Council and sought to lead a dialogue on creating a safe and inclusive campus environment. Our IFC includes organizations typically housed in a National Panhellenic Council (NPHC, for black Greek organizations), as our NPHC is currently offline as we work on chapter development. The conversation went on for an hour with IFC, and caused IFC to ask their Chapters to look at national policies on diversity and inclusion, and to explore the development of policies within IFC to improve the fraternity system.

But the group didn’t want to stop there. Wanting to have a public conversation among all groups, this past week IFC worked with our sororities, our Multicultural Greek Council, all of our cultural governance groups, and a number of others to lead a march on our Quad, which included two laps on the Quad and a signing of a pledge to create a safe and inclusive campus environment.

The best part of the evening however, was immediately following the march. As white students gathered in their councils on the bridge spanning College Avenue, a group of black students gathered on the Quad to ask questions and air concerns to our IFC leadership. Joe Laskey, our IFC president, did an excellent job of giving students room to speak, air their concerns, and talk about how  important it was to take the next steps together as a community. The two groups then merged on the bridge, and about a hundred students spent the next thirty-five minutes in a large circle sharing perspectives and having an honest dialogue about differences in the ISU experience based on race. It was a difficult conversation for many to have, but all of our students engaged passionately and respectfully, and listened to each other’s points of view. It is a first step of what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue, and it was entirely driven by our students. Our staffs in Fraternity & Sorority Life and Diversity Advocacy did a great job supporting our students, but as an educator it was heart-warming to see our students engage because they believed it was the right thing to do.

I am not affiliated with a fraternity, and my colleagues and friends find delightful irony in the fact that I supervise fraternities and sororities on our campus. And since I get to see all of the conduct side of our Greek system, it would be easy to become jaded about the value of Greek life on campus. But last night was a very welcome reminder that Greek communities on campus can serve as catalysts both for community and for change.

In sharp contrast to what took place on our Quad last night, I noted this week that fraternities have joined at the national level to create FratPAC, and the group is lobbying Congress to make it harder for colleges and universities to investigate sexual assaults in the collegiate environment. From my perspective, this is a rather obvious ploy, under the guise of deferring to the criminal process, to shield national organizations from blame and (more importantly) lawsuits. These “leaders” of fraternities know full well that the criminal burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” will mean that most accusations will never make their way to a courtroom, so now they are seeking to insulate themselves from administrative legal proceedings without even the most basic understanding of the law. At a time when fraternities are under fire for racism, sexual harassment and assault, and alcohol and drug abuse, this is exactly the wrong response. It is time to CHANGE fraternity culture, not protect it. “Boys will be boys” is no longer an acceptable response for egregious behaviors that harm members of our academic communities and threaten many others. Maybe these “leaders” should be more concerned with the actions of individual Chapters and fraternity members as a whole, rather than with infringing on the legal rights of reporting parties. Apparently however, it’s easier to contest federal law than to make cultural change inside of fraternities from the perspective of the national organizations.

I wish these people could have seen what took place on the ISU Quad last night; I rather suspect our students know more about leadership than they do.

Note: For those interested, here is an article on the march from The Daily Vidette, our student newspaper.

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Sep 092014

Ray Rice videoAs a student affairs practitioner, it has occurred to me this week watching the Ray Rice fiasco unfold that, in most university settings, things would be handled drastically differently. Unfortunately I do have to use the word “most” as a modifier here, because there are still a number of large Division One FBS programs conducting themselves more like the Ravens and the NFL, despite the federal government’s direction and justified intrusion into these matters. So with that modifier in place, in most cases Mr. Rice would be charged with physical abuse (in this case a Title IX offense) and be subjected to a thorough investigation and adjudication process. Mr. Rice’s due process would be protected, and there would also be a thorough investigation… not the shoddy and incomplete investigation conducted by the National Football League. And, simply based on the video evidence that I have seen with my own eyes, I am presuming that Mr. Rice would be found in violation of university policies. The sanctioning phase would consider the nature of his offense, his prior history, institutional precedence, and other factors. Based solely on the nature of the offense, in my professional judgment I think it is safe to say that Mr. Rice would be expelled from school.

Beyond just addressing Mr. Rice’s behavior in proportion to his offense, the sanction would have the added benefit of being consistent with sanctions for other offenses. At most institutions, we don’t throw students out of school for a semester for a first drug violation, nor do we typically allow those who serve time for vehicular manslaughter and other crimes to immediately return to a campus environment without great assurance that the guilty party no longer presents a threat to other members of the community.

If only life in the NFL came close to these standards. Continue reading »

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Aug 192014

First day of school, 2014We have survived opening and a new school year is underway! There was lots of activity this summer as the Dean of Students Office saw a change in leadership, with Dr. Art Munin coming in from DePaul University. This came amid a flurry of other changes in the Division of Student Affairs that have kept us all hopping over the past several months.

It is my intent to update this blog a little more frequently this year. There is still more to come in terms of Title IX commentary, as the issue continues to hold the national spotlight. I was recently interviewed on our local NPR station, and NPR itself is in the midst of an in depth review of this topic. Some of the legislation coming down the pike is going to make for some interesting conversation in the months ahead. I will also be tackling some other topics of interest as time permits this fall.

The fall promises to be a busy semester. In addition to making progress on my dissertation, I will be heading to ATIXA’s Title IX training in Phoenix in September, and then will be presenting at the joint ATIXA/SCOPE joint national conference in Orlando in October. Additionally, Brian Van Brunt and I will be repeating an NCHERM webinar on adjudicating “drunk sex” cases this October, and I will be off to The College of Wooster in November to provide conduct board training and professional development seminars.

And yes, this pic above is from the first day of school earlier this week. Not only was everyone up and ready to go this year… they were actually early! It was an unexpected but welcome surprise. I hope everyone else’s semesters are off to a good start, and I’ll see you soon in the virtual world.

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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.

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Mar 252014

517f11c48d9c7.preview-620This past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend a special meeting of the Illinois State University Board of Trustees, at which time the Board accepted the resignation of Dr. Timothy Flanagan as President of ISU, and unanimously approved of Dr. Larry Dietz as the 19th President of Illinois State University, with a contract through June of 2017.

Those of you familiar with the public controversy surrounding Dr. Flanagan will not be surprised to hear of his departure. The bigger take-away to me is that the Board of Trustees has made a solid decision in how to move forward. Board Chair Michael McCuskey  noted that, “The Board is impressed and fully confident in Dr. Dietz’s leadership, character and engagement with the University community. Those qualities were evidenced in the feedback we received from the campus community and search team during last year’s presidential search process and remain in evidence today through his outstanding level of performance at Illinois State.”

As someone who has worked for Dr. Dietz for the past three years, I think the Board got it right. Dr. Dietz is someone with a true passion for higher education, and is very well regarded by students, faculty, and staff. I have found him to be thoughtful, engaged, and caring, and consider him to be a leader with vision; he is definitely equipped to lead Illinois State towards a strong future. It’s a great time to be a Redbird!

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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;

Continue reading »

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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.

Continue reading »

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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.

Continue reading »

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Sep 102013

As I previously noted, we have a Senior Specialist position open in Community Rights &  Responsibilities in the Dean of Students Office at Illinois State University. The position specifics are below. Please share liberally if you know anyone looking for a student conduct and conflict resolution position.

Institution: Illinois State University
Location: Normal, IL
Category: Admin – Student Affairs and Services
Posted: 09/06/2013
Application Due: 09/26/2013
Type: Full Time
Salary: Commensurate with experience USD Per Year

Job Summary/Responsibilities: The Senior Specialist serves as a student conduct case manager for issues of academic and social misconduct at Illinois State University, and assists in the development and delivery of conflict resolution services for the University community. The Senior Specialist will work directly with students, with hearing boards, and with graduate and undergraduate students in the delivery of programs and services.

Continue reading »

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Aug 292013

Our Dean of Students Office at Illinois State University has two positions open in my reporting areas, with another on the way this fall. Here is the first position listing; for a Senior Specialist in Fraternity and Sorority Life. A summary of the position follows.

The Senior Specialist is responsible for:

  • Oversee the formal recruitment process for College Panhellenic Council
  • Assist in the supervision of the fraternity and sorority system
  • Maintain chapter data and records, including all fraternity and sorority grade report data
  • Oversee chapter training; officer roundtable; leadership development, recruitment, risk management, recognition, council retreats and support chapter advisement
  • Advise two of four governing councils: IFC, Panhellenic, NPHC, and MGC
  • Supervise a Graduate Assistant
  • Collaborate with Community Rights & Responsibilities for individual and chapter discipline
  • Serves on the Investigation Team for Community Rights & Responsibilities
  • Assist with curriculum development and instruction at leadership and values based workshops each year: Fraternity & Sorority101, Emerging Greek Leaders Retreat, Four Council Retreat, and Presidents and Council Officers Retreat
  • Develop, implement, and evaluate learning outcomes for all Fraternity & Sorority Life sponsored programs
  • Assist the Coordinator of Fraternity & Sorority Life with annual goal setting and evaluation
  • Assist in the budget proposal and budget hearing process
  • Assist the Coordinator with the strategic plan for the unit
  • Foster relationships with and engage chapter advisors

Continue reading »

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