Community colleges face unique Title IX challenges

'It is gospel. You absolutely have to treat it as gospel'

Title IX regulations may be written with four-year colleges in mind, but community colleges must find ways to follow the mandates, three speakers urged at the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges.

While most two-year institutions do not have student housing, they are still responsible for responding to sexual assaults that take place off campus, according to Title IX experts.

The federal government's recommendations cannot be ignored, says Gregory Haile, VP for public policy and government affairs and general counsel at Broward College.

"I don't care who calls it guidance," Mr. Haile said. "It is gospel. You absolutely have to treat it as gospel."

Community college-specific challenges

The rules ask colleges to create a memorandum of understanding with area police departments—an issue that gets more complicated when accounting for community colleges' multiple satellite and storefront campuses.

Additionally, community colleges frequently do not have the same counseling resources as their four-year counterparts. Instead, the two-year schools may need to direct students to area support groups.

These schools must take a different route in educating their students about sexual violence as well. Simply directing students to the student handbook often will not suffice.

Webconference: Do your students know their sexual misconduct reporting options?

"Most of our students read at remedial levels, and they may not be able to comprehend that booklet," says Laura Bennet, Harper College's student conduct officer. "English may not even be their first language."

And privacy issues change when attacks involve dual-enrollment high school students because parents are notified.

Issues shared with four-year institutions

Transgender rights and social-media harassment are issues for students and administrators on all types of campuses.

Sometimes, administrators must explain to "campus police who get a call about someone using the 'wrong' bathroom what it means to be transgender" or decide how to respond to when a student is harassed on Facebook and doesn't want to attend class with the harasser, Bennett says.

Situations involving foreign students can also get tricky, says Haile.        

Four lessons from administering a campus climate survey to community colleges

If a victim is in the United States on a student visa and wants to take time off after an attack, "you don’t want to be in a position where you think you're helping a victim and they fall below the threshold of credits they need" to be maintain their visa.

Confidential agreements can also become problematic if the attacker may have assaulted other students (Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/12).

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