Google Analytics Tracking Code

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Prevention and Education the Keys to reducing Sexual Assaults

Editor's Note: This is a two-part piece related to sexual assault. The first installment, related to policy and procedure, may be found here. For more background, please review this post from last spring.

By Senior Staff Psychologist Kristin Eisenhauer

The Education and Prevention Subcommittee of the Coalition for Respect is comprised of students, alumni, faculty, and staff, and is led by Dr. Sheryl Tynes.  The committee met four times this semester to address issues related to assessing campus climate around issues of sexual assault; coordinating a cohesive educational campaign for our campus; and exploring ways to hone our sexual assault prevention efforts in a meaningful way.  At this time, the following progress has been made:

- We have reviewed feedback from the 2014 NSO Sexual Assault Prevention program and have made recommendations for modifications.
- We have decided to administer the Higher Education Data Sharing (HEDS) Consortium’s Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey to Trinity students when it is finalized by the consortium in the spring of 2015.  The HEDS survey is rooted in the White House’s guidelines for measuring campus climate around issues of sexual assault and relationship violence.  Trinity’s survey results will shape our future education and prevention efforts.
- We have selected a keynote speaker to come to campus in the spring of 2015.  This speaker will address all students about issues related to sexual assault and relationship violence in Laurie Auditorium and will also provide special training sessions on these topics for student leaders and members of the Coalition for Respect.
- We have begun to map out the content and timing of campus programs and assessments related to sexual assault and relationship violence prevention and are working to brand an overarching theme for these efforts.  Our goal is to launch a cohesive educational campaign that includes active programs, passive programs, and ongoing assessments.  In this vein, we are in the early stages of exploring a Valentine’s Day event that will encourage healthy relationships.
- An assessment of First-Year and sophomore students’ bystander behaviors is currently under way.  This is part of an ongoing assessment of students who have participated in the Step Up bystander action program during their New Student Orientation.  

The Education and Prevention Subcommittee has four meetings scheduled in the spring semester to continue building our campaign.  We invite individuals who would like to become involved in our efforts to contact Dr. Kristin Eisenhauer.

Sexual Assault Continues to be a Difficult Issue

Editor's Note: This is a two-part piece related to sexual assault. The second installment, related to educational efforts, is by Senior Staff Psychologist Kristin Eisenhauer. For more background, please review this post from last spring.

With regular reports of victim re-victimization, lack of fairness, campus bungling, and government over-reach, sexual assault on campuses continues to be an important topic nationally. While most campuses have grappled with this issue for a long time, the 2011 Department of Education's Dear Colleague Letter, related to Title IX, offered guidance for processes to be more deliberate and transparent.

This has been positive in that it reinforces that schools must continue to address violations of sexual misconduct policies. Institutions generally deal with student conduct to to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment. It is appropriate for campuses to deal with any claims of student harassment and violence.

The rapid changes in legislative requirements and guidelines and the amount of press on the topic have sent administrators scrambling to keep up. It is important for campuses to follow and adhere to legislation while still thinking for themselves. Chasing laws and bowing to public pressure can be confusing for institutions and their constituents. On our campus two guiding principles will always inform our policy and procedures. First, the process has to be fair, and second, it must be executed with compassion.

In the summer of 2014 Trinity's policy was re-written, presented to the University community for comment, and approved by the Standards Committee. This was the second change in three years and the new policy has been generally well-received. It is likely that the policy and our process will undergo annual revisions as both evolve.

The new investigative model places less emphasis on hearings and more on fact-finding in advance. This helps staff members discern important information, and make recommendations, in a more private and more thorough manner. With the sharing of statements and reports, the process is fairly transparent. A pool of faculty and staff members serves in multiple roles as investigators, hearing board members, and process advocates. More and better trained people are involved with multiple facets of the process, which will hopefully instill confidence in the broad ownership of our process. This group will meet each semester to review cases and suggest procedural improvements and policy changes as needed.

Our standard remains "the greater weight of the credible evidence," which means there must be some evidence, whether it is direct, indirect, circumstantial, based on aftermath reports, and takes into account the credibility of the parties involved and the information presented. Once viewed, the decision-makers must determine whether or not that evidence presents the likelihood that a violation did or did not occur. Part of the tension around assault cases is that there is little evidence to begin with. At times it may appear that a student has brought forth a legitimate complaint, but the process must reveal that a policy violation occurred. This presents tremendous challenges for the accused and accusing students and the decision-makers.

At a forum this fall, students and staff discussed one of the many vexing issues related to assault. Deciding when a person is incapacitated is extremely challenging. When alcohol is involved communication are decision-making are confounded by conflicting, incomplete, and inaccurate recollections. Two themes emerged from that forum and will likely be incorporated in the policy in the future.

First, any time a person engages in sexual activity with a person who has consumed any amount of alcohol, that person may may face an allegation of sexual misconduct. This may be be in conflict with an alcohol-fueled hook-up culture, but it does put students on notice.

Second, intoxication and incapacitation need to be more clearly defined. Being drunk, or even blacked-out (when a person may seem coherent but later have no memory) does not necessarily mean that someone is incapacitated -- or that another should know the person is incapacitated. Incapactiation generally means that someone cannot function on their own. An intoxicated person can drive a car or send text messages, while an incapacitated person probably can't.

Unless force or coercion are involved, sexual interactions between those who have been drinking are likely not considered violations of policy. In many drunken hook-ups students are taking advantage of one another for their own gain. If they would not have done so if completely sober is in many ways immaterial.

At first glance it may seem these elements are contradictory. Any sexual interaction with someone who has been drinking can place someone at risk of an accusation, but incapacitation goes beyond simply being buzzed or drunk. In part, this will set-up some general expectations and express caution to students. These areas will have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Further complicating matters, a person who has ingested a date rape drug is likely incapacitated, though this may not be clear to others. It is imperative that anyone who feels they have been given a drug be tested immediately as such drugs leave the blood system in a relatively short period of time.

Student empowerment remains the most potent weapon against sexual assault on college campuses. Policies and procedures are of limited and reactionary value compared to student action. In the context of binge-drinking and parties, students must step up to protect themselves and others, unfortunately, from one another.

Most importantly, the biggest issue of all is the impact that this issue has on accusing and accused students. Student versus student conflicts produce some of the most challenging conduct cases on campuses. In most other cases (alcohol, drugs), where university policy is in conflict with student behavior the university is not emotionally invested in the outcome (of course the student is). In student versus student cases, at least one student will walk away feeling unheard and unsupported. When students square off against one another, with attorneys and parents often involved, and high emotional stakes and consequences on the line, there will almost always be negative or ambivalent  feelings. Even students cleared of policy violations sometimes can never see the institution in the same light. And for accusing students, though a finding of "not responsible" only means that there was no evidence of a policy violation, these decisions often result in feeling great disappointment, anger, and a lack of support.

For the institution, it is common to hear from those unhappy with a decision that they find the process to be flawed. The blurry lines between policy violations and crimes, and their consequences, make matters worse. Many erroneously expect legal standards in a process that is anything but.

Given all that is at stake, one thing remains certain. There will be winners and there will be losers. In the end, that means we all lose. The campus community has a responsibility to not just be engaged in this topic in reaction to high-profile cases. Students must work with the faculty and staff to create a safe and respectful campus climate to reduce and eliminate issues of sexual assault.And when cases arise, the institution must conduct thorough and professional investigations and hearings.

In January the Coalition for Respect will re-convene to review the work and cases from the fall.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Doin' the Trinity Shuffle

Some of the crew following the 10-11 mile taco run.
One of the joys of my work is the annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge and Food Drive. You get to know students well when you log lots of miles together. Generally on our group runs we eschew music, but last month we mixed things up by doing an iPod Shuffle run. Literally, we shuffled our music gadgets at various points during the run. It was a nice way to break up the routine and to hear what others listen to when they run. We also have had a Hunger Run, Taco Run, and Halloween Hill Hell Run. (Please come support us on December 7 as we run through Trinity!)

I had some very good stuff, IMHO, on my iPod Shuffle. Below, Sarah Kate references the song "Sexy and Free" which I think is called "Domino," by Jessie J. It has been a long time since I would ever have claimed a song called "Sexy and Free." Like never. She did get through a little Springsteen, for which she receives extra credit. I also have to laugh that our students think "Call Me Maybe" is a classic. I just don't think a song from a 17-year-old could already be considered classic, but it kinda is. Finally, Simba is not on Facebook but he did report that hearing jazz on someone's iPod was troubling. This from the guy who never met an explicit lyric he didn't like...
So I asked everyone involved to post their thoughts on our Facebook group. Without further adieu:

The Dean
My Trinity Shuffle was SO fun. I first listened to Simba's music and was happy to hear a song by the Neon Dragons. It was followed by a song called "Selfie" which made me laugh but which I never hope to hear again. We shuffled again and I landed on Joseph's tunes and was generally pleased. Totally Joseph - a little predictable and a little quirky. Quite happy to hear a song by the Imagine Trees. Okay, I actually have that ID CD and it was settling to hear. Then a song came on by Gaslight Anthem. It was called Meet Me By the River's Edge and I guarantee that Joseph has no idea this is a Bruce Springsteen tribute song! Mostly though, Joe would have been very comfortable with 80's hair bands, modern REO Speedwagon, and maybe even Head East. I was prouder of my self than I should have been for announcing that Jared Leto was the led singer from 30 Seconds to Mars, also on Joe's phone. (And Joe, I was just kidding about getting my dog's poop on your phone. As far as you know.) Thanks for the tunes Big Joe!

My shuffle run was with Mikki's iPod. Not a big Nikki Minaj fan, but at least wasn't stuck with anaconda. Loved hearing some coldplay and empire of the sun though.

My Trinity Shuffle was Katie's iPod, and I loved it. I really like the Red Hot Chili peppers, although after a silly mistake we realized it was on the wrong shuffle... once we changed it to her REAL workout mix I was listening to Flume and Madonna and other great pump up songs! I added them to my own workout mix. EVEN BETTER than this story though, was getting to listen to a few minutes of what KATIE had... ahem... Dean Tuttles' playlist!!! I'll let her tell you the entertaining details, though.

The iPod shuffle run was quite a hoot. I really enjoyed listening Call Me Maybe on Dean Tuttle's iPod shuffle. That song is a classic!!! I'm glad we have a Dean of Students that recognizes that. Galve's playlist was quality as well. Some dude named like Young Gangsta or something got me in a flow state for like the last couple miles so that was good. Young Gangsta is quite a talented guy. Overall very fun run!!!

Correction by Galve:
His name is Young Sinatra. Might as well be a G though, ya hear me?

For the iPod shuffle run, I'm always slightly nervous. Maybe that people won't like my music, or that maybe we will all get hit by a car crossing the street because we were listening to music instead of traffic. After a while and the nervousness passes, I relax and enjoy the run. I had Joseph's iPhone for a bit at the beginning, and he had some great workout tunes, some that I have to download myself. I also noted the possible danger of running with an iPhone in hand. For all those that run with electronic devices, it's safest to have it on your arm or in a pocket. In chance of the potential fall (unless you are skilled and have never tripped when running) you should have both hands free to break your fall, instead of breaking your phone and/or a possible bone. Also if you are running with dog poop, then you have less chance of getting it on your phone if it's on your arm or in your pocket. In final, there was no Taylor Swift played on any of the playlists I listened to, so I was able to completely enjoy the rest of the run.

Sarah Kate
The iPod shuffle run was pretty great. I really enjoyed listening to Young Sinatra and Dean and Ravo on Galve's playlist, especially the song "Walkin Around" by Dean and Ravo. I also got to hear Dean Tuttle's playlist, my favorites being "Call Me Maybe" and "Sexy and Free". I also got to jam out to some Bruce Springsteen as well. Overall a super fun run!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Yik Yak Yuk

Let's be clear about this. People have been crude and rude forever. I mean, just watch Game of Thrones. The internet has simply changed the nature of boorish and hostile behavior. Just read any comments section on any post to witness the pattern of trolls stirring up trouble, counter-arguing, policing grammar, and getting all charged up over nothing. It is like Disney. It's mostly make believe.

When JuicyCampus came on the scene people were outraged. Indeed, bullying and other horrible things have happened as a result of the internet and social media. That site was shut down because of the resulting harassment and personal attacks on students. But other sites have replaced it. Currently Facebook's Trinity Confessions and Overheard at Trinity pages are making way for a new site called Yik Yak.

This is a location-based app that allows people who are in proximity to one another to post anonymously. It has some advantages to it, in that posts are pretty fleeting (as new posts come in, old ones drop off). People can up-vote or down-vote posts as well as reply. If a post is down-voted five times it disappears. Generally people cannot be identified by name.

As far as these things go, Yik Yak isn't the worst. Generally, people want to invite others to have sex, bemoan having a cuddle buddy, or try to be witty. Popular posts often start with "When..." as in, "When you are at a party and they run out of beer..." 

Obviously I check out Yik Yak from time-to-time. I think it is important to know what is out there that is engaging some of our students. If you are on the app you can search for other schools to see what is being said. Most reasonable people will immediately wonder how it works... for people on an anonymous site to ask for sexual favors, because it makes zero sense. But that hasn't stopped the masses. 

My biggest issue with the app is that while I have only posted once or twice, my posts have been down-voted into oblivion. One of them was of the "When..." kind, which I clearly had not thought through. Here is another example. Because of our proximity to SAC and Incarnate Word, it is difficult to sometimes discern the higher education institution of origin. The posts are co-mingled. I am often hoping the worst of the posts are not from Trinity. So my post was simply this: "If the source is not otherwise obvious, why not use #Trinity or #UIW?" This was a very productive suggestion. But boom. Off. Like, immediately.

I told my wife about this on our way to a movie that night. And we did not have a fight about it that she won. But she said that I shouldn't "play in the students' sandbox." I was not playing in their sandbox. I just wanted to understand it. She said students could sniff out a grown-up in a second. So, I was voted down by the students and my wife - who told me not to take it personally. And yet "Just applied to be Wacka Flacka's blunt roller. Wish me luck" is trending up with 35 affirmative votes as I write this. What a stupid sandbox.

But I had a plan, which was to post this: "This is the Dean, and I thought my post about using a hash

I no longer become angry or get all high and mighty about these sites. The arguments for or against are always the same. But here are some observations gleaned over the years:

1. Most of what is out there is trashy: sexual, fecal, and anti-social. It is like a Student Affairs meeting.
2. Most of the things are posted to elicit responses.
tag to specify the campus being cited was a great idea!" Then someone would have posted: "Is this Dean Tuttle from TU or Dean Moore from UIW?" To which my response would have been: "Exactly!" That would have been my throw down the mic moment on Yik Yak. But my wife, who is NOT the boss of me, wouldn't let me post any more. And she IS my cuddle buddy after all.
3. Most of the responses are meant to elicit reactions.
4. Many of the things posted on anonymous social media sites are not true, are exaggerated, or unverifiable.
5. If the electronic mob follows it, then people will engage with it. If you don't like it... Ignore it. Rock beats scissors, mob beats reason.
6. You can't permanently stop these sites unless they are literally criminal. It emboldens people and they find other channels to migrate to anyways.
7. It will pass. It always does, because it eventually becomes boring. And then a new platform arises. And then it passes.
8. Even if someone posts as a female, it is probably a male.
9. This is like a sport for bored people or those taking a break from work and study.
10. Sometimes grown-ups, or even deans, get sucked into these things.

Last year I was pretty much run off of Overheard at Trinity when I simply joined to retrieve memes of me for a blog post. Geesh. I have learned my lesson. I may check out Yik Yak from time-to-time, to, er, be effective at my job... But I won't be playing any more. Too much sand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Logos and Tigers and Brands, oh my

As Trinity University continues to develop its brand, the University has recently revealed a new spirit logo. This one replaces the tiger on the TU symbol that has become popular with our athletic teams. Unfortunately the latter can't be trademarked because it kind of already is - by the Detroit Tigers baseball team. Though really, how many ways can a tiger menacingly crawl around a "T."

Logos are tricky because they are used in different ways. At Trinity we want some consistency, but we have the official seal for the more high brow uses, such as on diplomas. We have the tower logo for the more day-to-day business uses. And we have the Trinity over Texas football helmet and the aforementioned tiger spirit logos, old and new.

But maybe it is time we reconsider the tiger altogether. I am sure it would be blasphemy because the tiger has a long Trinity tradition and the alliteration works. But it really isn't THAT unique, or for that matter, descriptive. After all, we are in an athletic conference with the Tigers of Colorado College and former conference Tigers included DePauw and Sewanee. And there is LSU, Clemson, Missouri...

Names matter, especially to alumni. Southwestern considered changing away from Southwestern because well, it isn't really Southwestern. That discussion did not go well. Texas State used to be Southwest Texas State but changed that, maybe because of the confusion with Southwestern. But Southwest Texas State was once called SWTS Normal school, so name changes seem normal to them. No one would ever suggest that Trinity change its name, though its roots and religious under and overtones cause some confusion related to its identity.

But I think mascots can be more easily changed. The Incarnate Word Crusaders became the Cardinals, the Marquette Warriors became the Golden Eagles, the Syracuse Orangemen simply became the Orange, and the Washington Redskins... Oh. Bad example. To me, the best mascots reflect time and place. New Orleans Jazz was good. Utah Jazz, not so good. My Milwaukee Brewers, in the land of beer and brats is perfect. Other good names include Bucks (deer hunting), Trailblazers, Steelers, Longhorns, Spurs, Padres, and Yankees. Note that none of those are birds or random animals. So I propose we consider changing the name Tigers to something that is more Trinity.

Hmmm, that just seems TOO obvious. But the logo would be cool.

9. Trinity Onesies
As in Number One in the West since the West was One.

8. The Feral Cats
This is the only animal entry, but given the popularity of the Trinity cats and the fine work of the CAT Alliance, it does deserve consideration. And we can say we will neuter the opposition - but at least we will feed them.

7. The Trinity Taco Tacos
We are hot! And how easy is the cheer "Go Tacos Go!"

6. The Primarily Undergraduate Liberal Arts and Sciences Residential Institution with Professional and Pre-Professional Programs TIGERS
We seem fond of that...

5. The Grissoms
Beloved English teacher, famous Dean of 30 years, straight-talking, quick-witted, sharp-tongued, extremely brilliant, organized, pet-loving, polarizing, and hilarious East Texas Girl... We get her and love her. She is we. That's all that matters.

4. The Trinity Quarry Rockers
How tough is that. Even though, technically we just live and work on an old quarry, dammit, we are still Quarry Tough!

3. The Trinity Towers
We tower over the city, the competition, the, well, everything...

2. Trinity Ampersands
This is the perfect tie-in to our marketing campaign. Our students are athletes & engineers; actors & senators... And when it comes to athletics we will win & pummel & route & destroy. And most importantly, we can call the Stand Band the AmperStand Band.

Yes, that's right. The Onions! A play on the word "Trinitonian." You can't cut us! We make the opposition cry. We have many layers. We're bad man. We're really bad. Go Onions Go. Slice 'em up, Dive 'em up, Peel 'em back, GO!

On second thought, Tigers works too...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

High and Mighty

I blame Colorado mostly. Nearly any conversation with a student or a parent regarding our drug policy and state drug laws eventually includes a reference to Rocky Mountain High. It has become the "my friends don't have a curfew!" of marijuana discussions.

I don't want to confuse any portions of this post with the facts. Nearly all of the facts related to marijuana can be disputed. Students on college campuses everywhere have done great research to de-bunk any claims of harm that comes from smoking weed. I think if some studied their course work with as much passion as they researched marijuana we would be a far smarter nation.

So here are some things I will stay away from arguing: Marijuana may or may not be addictive. It may or may not have long-term health risks. Its legalization may or may not benefit or hurt Central American producers and distributors and drug kingpins. Everyone may or may not do it. Smoking pot may or may not increase the popularity of potato chip nachos at Mabee Hall. Getting high may be considered trendy, funny, cool, hip, and natural. Smoking pot may shrink ones testicle's and it may sap one of energy and drive.  Pot is or isn't a gateway drug. It may or may not be true that those from privileged white backgrounds are jailed far less than impoverished black men with few options to get ahead in the ghettos and educational systems they were born into. (Okay, I am pretty sure that one is true.)

Most universities are required by law to enforce drug policies or risk losing financial aid. One day that may change. At Trinity we don't allow 21-year-olds to have hard liquor on campus even if they may have it legally off-campus. This is to deter binge-drinking, not that it is particularly effective. So if and when Texas legalizes marijuana I still wouldn't want it permitted on campus.

Mercifully, here is my sure to be unpopular hypothesis: College campuses are no places for drugs, including marijuana. I have my reasons.

1. I believe two primary things about college. First, colleges are places of higher learning. We have communities of scholars and we espouse that we are building global citizens for a better world. A quarter of the population makes it to college and far less graduate. It is a rare and special privilege. Students nationwide will eventually cure cancer, find ways to distribute clean water to all peoples, and hopefully one day cancel the Big Bang Theory from network television.

Second, I believe for traditional age students that college is a safe place to make mistakes and grow from them. It is dynamic and fun and students are meeting others from different backgrounds, having late-night conversations over pizza and cereal, and are finding out who they are and their place in the world.

Somehow along the way, and I blame movies mostly, and some people like me who partied hard in college, we have defined college culture as "work hard/play hard," with playing hard being binge drinking and smoking dope. That all may have flown when I was paying hundreds of dollars for tuition. That is less the case today. When I do parental notifications related to drug offenses usually the parent and the dean are aligned on one thing: With what it costs to go to college, students may need to choose between their education and their entertainment. I suspect too that our students are far more comfortable lighting up in their campus dorm rooms than their bedrooms in Houston.

2. I don't really care if people get high. It is kind of their business. I know guns don't kill people, people do. I know that some people drink too much and are predisposed or simply become alcoholics. I know some students get addicted to video games and Yik Yak. And some students get addicted to pot. Several students have left our own campus in the last two years as a direct consequence of their drug use (not because of policy violations either). I guess it is their fault. But smoking isn't as harmless as it seems and it has real-life negative consequences for some of our students. There are an estimated 1,800 alcohol-related college deaths annually. It seems we are okay with that (except probably for the friends and families of those 1,800 students I would think). Choices and consequences... Marijuana has far fewer short-term negative consequences than alcohol, so it seems benign to most students. But there are costs. Are we okay with that too?

Many students are on medication that doesn't mix well with alcohol and drugs. And many students find that smoking pot numbs their pain and is the only way to feel good. It is called self-medicating. And if it becomes the only way to feel normal or better it can be a problem.

3. I actually hate myself for saying this, but I just don't like the drug culture. Admittedly, when I was growing up it was impressed upon me that tripping on acid would result in horrible things like trying to fly from atop a tall building, running naked through the streets, death, becoming a drug dealer, or over-focusing on the fact that the background in most Flintstones clips repeats.

I just think it is weird. We are not the Trinity Tokers. Our dorms should not smell like incense and pot. We are not head shops. And no campus wants drug dealers packing heat roaming the residence halls. (Ironically, students who buy and distribute for their friends don't consider themselves dealers - just good friends.) I don't like the word "weed" or the term "high." I don't like cute little posters, shirts, or hats about marijuana. I don't like grinders, scales, rolling papers, and towels under the door and people calling each other dude. It just seems beneath people. I also have met many students who just are bad at drugs. They are not pot-heads. They are pretending to be pot-heads, much like I thought I was the Marlboro man in college. I don't know that I was fooling anyone and neither are many of our students.

In short, despite the perception in my own mind of being somewhat cool, I am just an old fart. I hate that.

To summarize:
I don't really care if people want to smoke pot as long as they take it off campus. I don't really care that it is illegal or not, except I think poor people are dying in drug wars so people of privilege can get high once in awhile. I don't like that drugs short-circuit the lives and educations of some of our students. I don't like that as a society we have somehow connected college to drugs and binge-drinking. I never could really get into the Grateful Dead, but I tried.

I love our students who smoke pot as much as the ones who don't. I just don't like pot. For me it is less legal, ethical and moral than it is practical. To that end, my guess is the way most campuses will better enforce drug policies is to go smoke-free. We are headed that way at Trinity and it has nothing to do with pot. It isn't an end-run. But it may be the best way to make our colleges, with their high costs and aspirations, more of what  they should be. And for the students who want to still get high - they can still find a way. They just shouldn't do it here.