Addressing the Problem of Sexual Assault on College Campuses Together

As President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan have both said many times, it’s on all of us to stop sexual assault.

This is why Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon and other staff at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently met with 11 college students from the Chicago area to discuss the issue of sexual violence and related policies. Student representatives came from Columbia College, Northwestern University, Moraine Valley Community College and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

The group sat down for a roundtable discussion about sexual assault on college campuses, with the goal of ensuring policy makers are connecting the dots between students’ perspectives and needs with policy. Students provided thoughtful feedback about sexual assault trainings for students, the effect professors can have on bolstering or obstructing safe-space learning environments, the need for effective communication strategies for the disbursement of information to students, and what ED can do to help.

Many students voiced the concern that too often, college students don’t know about Title IX and the rights afforded to them until they have become victims. The students said that there should be structures to increase awareness put in place before a problem occurs. While colleges and universities that receive federal funding are required by Clery Act regulations to provide programming for students and employees about sexual assault, colleges and universities often choose to do this only at the beginning of the school year. A student from the University of Illinois-Chicago pointed out that Title IX training should be done consistently throughout the academic year, not only during orientation, when students are overwhelmed with new information and can be distracted.

Our ED team came away from the roundtable impressed by the professionalism and insights of the student participants. By engaging in this roundtable and hearing recommendations for improving the quality of learning environments, all of the leaders in attendance are better equipped with the knowledge and understanding necessary to continue to work toward the eradication of sexual assault on college campuses.

Jessie Brown is Senior Counsel in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. While I am happy to see the Obama Administration is addressing the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, I believe the administration needs to go further to protect students. I agree that education should be extended throughout the school year, not just orientation of freshman year. This conversation is one students should be engaged in throughout their college careers. It is essential that these messages are indoctrinated in to the minds’ of every student. I also the administration should take more steps to hold universities accountable. It seems that universities let far too many students accused of sexual assault off of the hook. The administration should push to ensure justice is upheld where necessary. Investigating schools for Title IX violations is not sufficient. Sexual assault is a real issue on our campuses. I am glad to see the issue is gaining the attention of the public and the administration is taking steps to stop sexual assault.

  2. If the government comes up with methods of reducing engagement of adolescents in sex activities at tender ages, violation of human rights can be reduced. The problem manifested in Universities and colleges about sex assault show some deep rooted moral decadence in society. Instead of inculcating morals in students, schools, socialites, government agencies and some activists simply promote rottenness.

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