The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will lead a series of focus groups on Main Campus, after announcing this past May that Temple was under investigation for its handling of sexual violence or harassment complaints.
The groups, which started Monday and will continue on Wednesday and Thursday, are designed to take a closer look at victims of sexual assault, as the OCR collects information for government records. However, the OCR will not collect any personal information from participants in the study.
“We are happy to cooperate with this process in any way we can, and have helped to publicize OCR’s visit,” said Theresa Powell, vice president for Student Affairs in an email.
“We hope that information obtained through this process can augment other survey data that the university gathers to better direct and inform our university-wide efforts to promote education, prevention and response to complaints of sexual misconduct,” Powell said.
In May, Temple was named one of 55 universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possible violation of Title IX relating to the handling of sexual assault and harassment cases.
According to the Title IX website, the Supreme Court has stated that schools are required under the amendment to “prevent and address harassment against students, regardless of whether the harassment is perpetrated by peers, teachers, or other school officials.”
The current Title IX review comes in the wake of two sexual assaults that were reported last Monday night. Both incidents were reported at 10:46 p.m. around Morgan and White halls, respectively.
Powell emailed the Temple community on Nov. 6 with a schedule for meetings with the OCR in Morgan Hall South.
On Monday, OCR met with university staff and faculty, leaders of student organizations, resident assistants, and members of student government. The office also offered students private meetings with the organization at 4 p.m.
During the course of Wednesday and Thursday, the OCR will continue to meet with various groups throughout the university, including student-athletes of all genders, undergraduate students, members of fraternities and sororities, and LGBTQ students. Private meetings with the OCR will continue to be available, starting at 9 a.m. on both days.
The OCR’s visit to Temple sheds light on a national trend among institutions of higher education. According to the Title IX website, “eight in 10 students experience some form of harassment during their school years, and more than 25 percent of them experience it often.”
Powell hopes the collaboration between Temple and the OCR will help improve these statistics in the future.
“OCR and Temple are both invested in and committed to ensuring our campus is a safe place to live, learn and work,” Powell said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @Steve_Bohnel