Monday, December 07, 2015

Round-up: Aftermath of the Hunting Ground airing

Amid criticisms of the film and the television station, with threats of lawsuits, CNN aired The Hunting Ground the weekend before American Thanksgiving. Here is what happened afterwards:

A report came out from the American Association of University Women that 91% of colleges and universities reported no sexual assaults in 2014. I find that number both incredulous and sadly not at all surprising. Earlier this year another study's results were released showing that one out of four college women surveyed reported being assaulted. So even with problematic studies, even with underreporting, there is no way that nine out of ten schools received no reports of sexual assault in 2014. There is missing data, as the Washington Post reports, because some schools missed the October 1 deadline to report their numbers about crimes on campus and there might be a delay in data entry at the Department of Education. Regardless, reports of zero sexual assaults should not fool anyone. It is more likely an indication that a school does not have the correct policies, procedures and training in place. As the article notes:
"a school that reports no or few sexual assaults isn’t necessarily a safe haven for students. In fact, a higher number of reported assaults can mean the assault investigation system is operating effectively."

 This seems to be playing out at Brown University, which recently revised its sexual assault policies. The number of reported assaults has increased. According to administrators, the new process--spurred by a complaint about the handling of a student's accusations and the punishment levied against the assailant and an OCR investigation--has made it easier for victims to report and move through the hearing process.

Down in Tallahassee, Florida Florida State administrators, lead by President John Thrasher, continue to defend themselves against allegations of mishandling sexual assault complaints and are working very hard to keep their secrets secret--with limited success. Days after Thrasher chastised The Hunting Ground, the university was forced to release transcripts (by a judge and requested by NYT) of depositions in Erica Kinsman's lawsuit. The former head of the victim advocacy program provided some numbers. The "good" news is that FSU did--unlike 90% of American colleges and universities--report sexual assault in 2014; nine incidents, according to Melissa Ashton who was in charge of the program at the time. But she also said that 113 incidents were reported to her office. Ashton was in her position for nine years and, according to her testimony, there were 40 football players reported for sexual assault or intimate partner violence. Only one of those 40 were found responsible she said noting that many women would not pursue cases against football players because they were afraid of the repercussions. Part of FSU's response was a basic shrugging of the shoulders, noting that there was nothing the university could do if the victim would not report outside of the victim advocacy program. There was nothing about trying to change the culture of fear and intimidation.  

The other deposition some were interested in was that of head football coach Jimbo Fisher. He reported that he was not aware of FSU's sexual assault policies and thought that Title IX was about equality in men's and women's sports. The line of questioning was trying to determine what Fisher, and his superiors, knew about the accusations against Winston, when, and what they did about them. Ashton noted that whether there was even a staff member at FSU who dealt with Title IX issues during that time is in doubt. This does not excuse FSU or Fisher and his superiors from reporting the allegations, in part because not having a Title IX coordinator is a Title IX violation.

This case is not scheduled for trial until September 2016. That provided Thrasher with an abundance of time to keep praising and defending FSU.

PS: I looked for news about Winston was planning in the wake of CNN's airing of the documentary. No word on the lawsuit he was threatening.