What are business schools doing about sexual harassment? Madelyn Capehart


The response to sexual harassment on college campuses may resemble what the time-honored adage says about the weather: everyone talks about it, but no one does anything. While the actions that colleges are taking may not seem apparent to potential students, business schools are working on the issue and making progress. Men and women who want to get a bachelor’s degree or an MBA have the assurance that business schools can protect their right to study in peace and without constraint.

Taking a Direct Approach
Federal law restricts federal funding to compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and it prohibits any sex-based discrimination in education. The Campus SAVE Act updates the Violence Against Women Reauthorization (VAWA) law, and It requires colleges to take new initiatives that end sexual violence.

Setting Guidelines
A report by NPR cites the requirements that the Obama administration recommended to colleges to prevent sexual assault and subsequent investigations. Under Title IX of the civil rights law that requires equal access in college sports for men and women, schools must end sexual harassment as well as sexual assault. A study by the Center for Public Integrity and NPR provided the basis for the recommendations.

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The four major points of the report that apply to colleges and universities include these:

1. Schools may not charge a woman with using drugs or alcohol when she files a complaint of sexual assault.

2. Schools must inform anyone who files a complaint, male or female, of their rights to know the outcome of an investigation.

3. Regardless of the location of an alleged assault, schools must investigate the incident.

4. Investigations must begin “promptly” without requiring a waiting period for local police to complete a criminal inquiry.

Complying with Federal Guideline
The Campus SAVE Act requires institutions of higher education to provide accurate guidance on the guidelines that ensure safety for students of business and other disciplines. The advice must inform faculty and staff as well as students at colleges, community colleges and vocational schools in these areas:

• prevention of rape
• domestic violence
• stalking
• sexual assault

Schools must evaluate their policies on sexual misconduct prevention as well as awareness programs to guarantee compliance.

Understanding the Progress to Date
Business students have protections that did not apply before 1972. The legislation protects current or prospective students against sexual violence and harassment.

• Education Amendments Act of 1972
The act prohibited sex-based discrimination in higher education.

• Crime Awareness and the Campus Security Act of 1990
The provisions of the act, later renamed as the Clery Act in honor of a slain student, require all colleges to reveal campus crime statistics.

• Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA)
The legislation defined domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking and provided funding grants to help colleges reduce the incidence of crime

• Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance of 2001
The revisions clarified the obligations that schools have to address harassment issues and to make sure that college employees have adequate training in reporting procedures.

• Dear Colleague Letter April 2011
Recommendations in the letter reiterate Title IX guidelines that guarantee students of the right to an education without sexual harassment or violence.

• Campus SAVE Act of 2013
The legislation amends the Clery Act and mandates requirements for colleges to conduct extensive prevention and awareness programs on sexual conduct. Schools must include compliance statistics in their annual security reports.

Implementing Best Practices
Current business school students and potential ones as well can take note of the best practices that enhance the educational experience. The legislation that makes sex discrimination illegal poses a strong deterrent to inaction by colleges, and the loss of Title IX funds brings the matter to the forefront of concerns. The National Law Review cites the practices that ensure enforcement of Title IX and promote “adherence.”

• Designation of one or more full-time coordinators to make sure that students and staff receive training on Title IX compliance and to investigate alleged violations.

• Establishment of mandatory training on Title IX content for students and staff, including how to recognize sexual misconduct and reporting procedures for violations.

• Improvement of direct communication links that describe the standards of Title IX to faculty and staff as well as students. The requirement extends to departments that may have compliance issues such as student housing, the athletic department, and the campus police among others.

• Enhancement of confidential reporting of violations and of the collection of data as well as the best way to organize reports.

• Designation and subsequent training of two Title IX investigators who have the responsibility to implement investigations as necessary.

Enhancing Courses
The New York Times reported that students expect business schools to explore relevant topics in addition to the traditional courses in finance, accounting, marketing, and economics. Leading business schools respond with courses that confront the issues in class with innovative approaches.

• Include a case study on Uber for its business success as well as its “rampant corporate behavior.”

• Provide students a chance to study harassment in the workplace.

• Incorporate social science by enlisting professors who can teach human nature and game theory.

• Create new courses that explain how to establish a workplace culture that encourages people to report sexual harassment.

• Make debates on free speech a frequent activity.

• Inform students that investors expect corporate leaders to make statements about “social justice or moral issues.”

• Invite venture capitalists to teach on topics such as equity by design, creating a diverse business culture and building inclusive organizations.

• Include news topics such as the NFL protests as discussion points.

• Make students aware of privileges that may accompany gender.

Students whose plans include attending a business school for undergraduate or post-graduate studies can have confidence that colleges must provide a safe learning environment without the threat of sexual harassment or violence. Schools face the requirements of federal legislation as well as the potential loss of Title IX funds for non-compliance in addition to a desire to provide a quality education for students who choose to enroll.


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