My University Wastes Time and Money on Sexual Assault Training

If anyone needed a reminder that American colleges and universities have become expert at wasting time and money, my recent experience with mandatory “sexual assault training” might supply it.

I am on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater (UWW), where I teach English. Last February, all members of the campus community were informed by our Title IX Coordinator, Paige Reed, that all members of the campus community would have to complete an online training program because the university’s newly approved “Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment and Intimate Partner Violence Policy” requires it.

Further details, I read, would be forthcoming from the university’s office of human resources and diversity.

I found it a curious fact that, six years after having received the “Dear Colleague” letter, the issue remains so severe as to warrant this anachronistic reeducation on workplace discrimination. And it had never occurred to me that I might need to be “trained” how to avoid committing a crime, or that there is any need to reprise rudimentary lessons in refraining from boorishness in public life.

Although the training seemed unnecessary, UWW wasn’t asking for my time—it was demanding it.

Soon, the follow-up email arrived. I found out that the training required me to go through a program devised by a company named LawRoom. This company is cashing-in on the training market, but I have not been able to find out how much UWW paid for its program.

Dutifully, I logged in and began my training.

The course came with a trigger warning, lest we be traumatized by the content and in need of a resource center, the information for which was duly supplied. It was a relief to also know that, despite the presence of fictional characters played by real people, “we do not intend to suggest that everyone who shares a trait with a character behaves or misbehaves in a similar way.”

Rest assured, great pains were taken to create “a safe, positive, and affirming learning experience.” The creators of the program certainly know their audience—such comfort language plays well in the college environment.

We were provided with dictionary definitions of things like quid pro quo, along with a helpful phonetic spelling of the phrase and counsel that such behavior is illegal and should be avoided. Other highlights included statistics from someplace called the Workplace Bullying Institute, which one might surmise would not exist if its statistics on workplace bullying were not astonishingly high.

I went through numerous examples and case studies that were egregious and could probably be recognized without the aid of slick graphics, colorful charts, and quiz questions.

Here’s a typical case, entitled “Unofficially Demoted.”

Emily was a tenured faculty member, served on several committees, and was a Special Assistant to the Dean. After the Vice Provost supported Emily for a fellowship, he started making sexual advances, which she rejected. Finally, the Vice Provost told her, “It’s in your best interest to be nice to me,” but still she refused. He then took away Emily’s role as Special Assistant to the Dean and her committee work, but she retained her faculty position.

Question: Did Emily experience quid pro quo sexual harassment?

  • No, because she lost status but not job benefits.
  • Maybe, but only if the Vice Provost specifically threatened Emily’s title and committee work.
  • Yes, because she lost her prestigious title and committee work.

Obviously, the right answer was “Yes”—but if anyone taking the training had gotten the wrong answer, he or she could try again.

The course largely served as a tutorial on the fineries of what constitutes illegal behavior and what merely creates a hostile work environment. The latter comes exclusively under the purview of the university, which can act to remediate whatever it deems “hostile” or “intimidating.”

As someone who is always wary of losing touch with the student experience, the course provided a first-hand impression of how our students might expect to be treated in today’s typical classroom. That is, with the condescension formerly reserved for young children.

Topics such as bullying, harassment, and intimidation, though, served as a diversionary prelude to what the training was really about. Part II was devoted to Title IX and its new role as the administrative apparatus for detecting and punishing sexual assault.

We were made to understand the nature and scope of assault and were given the profile of a typical predator, someone who, for example, eschews weapons in favor of “psychological tactics to coerce victims.” Also included was an overview of Wisconsin law regarding consent and sexual harassment and then more case studies that offered an uncomplicated look at how sexual assault might present itself to the untrained eye.

Most dubious, however, was LawRoom’s defense of what it antiseptically calls an “institutional response”—that is, an extralegal one—to assault on campus. Sexual assault, in addition to being a criminal act, also “interferes with someone’s education” and thereby becomes a de facto Title IX violation.

Of course, when it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, we aren’t always dealing with criminal behavior, per se. This offense, courtesy of official “guidance” offered our campus by the federal Office for Civil Rights, is now classified as a form of “harassment” and is to be adjudicated by campus officials.

Title IX has defined harassment down to any “unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” and thus a distinction between a constitutionally guaranteed legal defense and the kangaroo courts that now preside over Title IX hearings is warranted. Fortunately, that distinction was delineated via a chart that, if nothing else, highlighted the university’s prerogative to apply a lower standard of proof, curtail due process, and refuse access to counsel for the accused.

Having known much of this and already paranoid about Title IX’s applicability to nearly every thought, word, and deed, I sailed through the training in about two hours. We were told we might need to take breaks since the material could be discomfiting, but the training was only painful in its superfluity.

To accurately understand and appraise Title IX’s new function on college campuses, one need only look to its deployment as an enforcer of politically correct speech or to the countless number of pending lawsuits over its punishment of boozy and ambiguous student couplings.

Having completed the training, I am now presumably able to continue my professional duties. As for another endeavor to validate the victim/oppressor model that animates so much of university life, I would venture that at some point we have either a recognition that respective campus climates are sufficiently improved, or an acknowledgement that this has all amounted to nothing but empty, expensive posturing.

In the interim, campus (re)training rolls on.

  • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

    Implemented in accordance with Regent Policy Document 14-8, and Approved by Chancellor’s Cabinet on January 23, 2017, UWW’s newly approved “Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment and Intimate Partner Violence Policy” requires training:
    “UW-Whitewater shall provide training programs and educational opportunities to the campus community members in regard to this policy and the rights and responsibilities contained herein.”

    Online training such as you describe solves the bureaucratic problem of documenting that everyone has completed the required training. You seem to be reacting to this episode of being treated like a little cog in a larger cog-works with Kafkaesque indignation.

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      Lastly, the Faculty Senate had this clarifying comment on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 @ 2:00 p.m when discussing this new policy: “*To be clear, while the Faculty Senate is pleased to learn about, discuss, and even brainstorm on these items, the general consideration of these items by the Faculty Senate should not be considered as achieving the full consultation of the Faculty Senate.” Just following orders, just following orders.

  • This kind of thing happens at my college all the time. It’s to lessen any future judgments against the school.. they can say “all were trained” as a defense. I’m going to include a link to about a 2 minute clip from the CBS hit “NCIS” on their mandatory sexual harassment training. What makes this hysterical to me is it is true. I know. Before becoming an academic, I was an instructor in the Army. The tasked me to do this training.. as I said to my boss, “you dumped this sows ear on me hoping I’d turn it into a silk purse.” The only difference here is I knew it was bravo sierra, unlike the character on this clip. They told me I had to hit all the learning objectives, so I read them to the class and we were out in ten minutes time. It was mandatory training, except for the upper ranks, which made it even more of a joke.

    By the way, this was one of the many things that motivated me to leave the Department of the Army for academia.

    Here’s the link to the NCIS episode:

    • Glen_S_McGhee_FHEAP

      I hadn’t thought about this from the liability perspective — maybe the insurer mandates it as part of the institutional coverage!

      Attendance becomes part of the audit trail if administrators need to prove due diligence in a lawsuit. This explains why it feels like a waste — it is not for your benefit.

  • SamHamilton

    Isn’t this mostly about lawsuit prevention? If there is a case of sexual harassment, the school can point to this training and say “well, we trained everyone, not our fault, so don’t sue us.” The training probably won’t reduce the incidence of harassment or assault, but it will protect the school when it does happen.

    • Marshal

      Isn’t this mostly about lawsuit prevention?

      No. That’s the justification activist ideologues and their administration allies use to avoid an honest evaluation of their policies.

    • Mark Zunac

      It’s a good point. Liability protection is certainly a consideration. Yet that also speaks to a fundamental flaw with the way Title IX has been deployed. The federal government has made colleges and universities ultimately responsible for something over which they have limited control. At
      the same time, we don’t have mandatory training for every state law or system policy that might be violated on a given campus. My sense is that this one is taken up with some alacrity, since it provides an opportunity to double down on a crucial ideological narrative. In this way it is consistent with other extracurricular efforts that have more to do with ensuring right thought than preempting possible litigation.

    • steveH01

      It’s just lawyer repellant.

  • Henri J Kinson

    Hooray for a rational, well-thought out article from my alma mater, and the English department no less!

    Henri Kinson
    UW-W ’89

  • steve bourg

    I wonder if the Title 9 Coordinator Paige Reed is a fulltime, overpaid employee, and I also wonder if bears pee in the woods.

  • disqus_sBKZDGKiG8

    This same thing is done in health care, but on a much larger scale. It is part of the dumbing down of America and the extensive legalization of everything we do.

    Essentially, it is a make work program. People without particular skills getting a slice of all the cash sloshing around the heathcare and educational industries in this country.

    Get used to it. Until this country stops living on borrowed money, this isn’t going away. Remember, you have to comply with enthusiasm. Otherwise, you are a threat to the established order.

  • Marshal

    This company is cashing-in on the training market, but I have not been able to find out how much UWW paid for its program.

    What great work for otherwise unemployable Women’s Studies grads. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

  • Ted Sherman

    Sam Hamilton is entirely right. This is completely about lawsuit prevention. We’ve been doing this idiotic “training” (really, it’s indoctrination) for several years at my university (I’m professor English at Middle Tennessee State University). Last year, I brought to the attention of our Title IX coordinator several factual problems with the content of the training, as well as several examples of political bias. She said she would “talk to the vendor.” Yeah, right. This ranks right up there with fire extinguisher training as a waste of my time.

    • bdavi52

      No — no way!!
      We might actually have to use a fire extinguisher one day. And our ability to do so might actually mean something.

      THIS is the Black Hole of Training — a time sink which absorbs all light, heat, and motion from which nothing good ever emerges (save for more & increasing alienation & anger).

      • Ted Sherman

        It would be useful training, except, even though we are required to do the fire extinguisher training, we are not supposed to use them to put out fires. We’re told to wait for the firemen. How’s that for idiocy?!

        • bdavi52

          Even better!
          So what you’re experiencing is Catch 22 Fire Extinguisher Training! You must be trained on Fire Extinguisher use, that’s what the regulations say. “Ok, when can we use a fire extinguisher?” You Can’t. You must wait for a fireman. “So if we can’t use it, can we skip the training?” “No, absolutely not. Everyone must be trained. It’s a safety issue!” After we’re trained, can we use ’em? “No, absolutely not — that wouldn’t be safe!”

          Is Milo Minderbinder, by any chance, your CEO? Or maybe Major Major Major??

  • markbuehner

    This brave fellow is in for a shit storm.

  • Michael Roberson

    The author seems to know that this sort of indoctrin…I mean, educational awareness, goes on constantly in the workforce. My former employer for each of the 14 years I worked there had some sort of this program every year. At one point a co-worker said to me, “Got that sex harassment course coming up again. I take it every year and still haven’t learned how to do it right.” Other people heard him and before the day was over, he was in HR. Didn’t lose his job, but it was apparently pretty close.

    • steveH01

      Received the same sort of training off and on over 30+ years at various jobs in Silicon Valley. With the same levels of enthusiasm from both presenters and vict…employees.

    • bdavi52

      A common joke among all us peasants. We just hoped and trusted that the Commissars didn’t have any informers hidden in nearby cubicles.

      And then, of course, there’s this classic SNL skit (from 2005) which explains it all:

  • bdavi52

    Enough? You seriously think that The Bureaucratic Nightmare which is Title IX Enforcement & Application will ever reach “Enough”? You truly believe that the Title IX Mavens (and all the Queen’s Horses and all the Queen’s men) will ever say, we have arrived? Will ever acknowledge that the multi-million dollars we dump into the Title IX Sexual Assault rat hole will ever be sufficient? That Nirvana is Now?

    You’ve got to be kidding! Just think about all the horrible publicity: “University X declares they don’t care if women are raped!!”

    When careers, reputations, and administrative empires are at stake, there is never enough. And we can never acknowledge that “respective climates are sufficiently improved” because not only would that mean the end of Empire, it might even cause us to examine the reality which was our starting point. And if we examine that reality, if we look at the crime stats, if we look even at the Clery stats, if we look at what is actually happening on pretty much every campus in America — we would have to recognize that when it comes to Sexual Assault, there’s actually very little of that which is going on.

    The ALLEGED Sexual Assault Rate reported on 1500+ campuses across @ 12M students runs NOT at the vociferously advertised 20%….not even at 2%….not even at .2%….but rather at .05% (a rate, oddly, which is right in line with normal FBI national rape stats). The U.S. college quad is NOT the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman (that title previously held by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the rape rate (as a weapon of war) runs at @ 1%). We do not inhabit or somehow encourage a Rape Culture. And sexual assault is NOT “any thing (act, word, gesture, intent) unwanted as defined purely by the mind of the so-called ‘victim’ in question.

    We have fallen down the rabbit hole; we’ve taken that one pill (becoming very small indeed) and here — the Red Queen’s very definitely off with her head. Just wait till you see next year’s fancier, new & improved Training (full of “twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy pictures with the circles and Arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one…” explaining & asking: “Have you ever experienced anything unwanted?”)

    • TheShadow01

      You, my friend, are an absolute genius. Im going to ‘follow’ you if that’s okay. (Even if it’s not, if i can get away with it wityout being discovered, Im going to. lol)
      I will be quiet and just listen. You won’t even know I’m here. Thank you. Tonight, I posted on something you wrote 8 months ago…and i meant it

      • TheShadow01

        Damn thus PHONE!

        • bdavi52

          Keyboarding on phones is impossible. I’ve given up. So I totally understand the ‘thumbing’ mistakes.

          Thanks for the kind words; much appreciated. Please feel free to follow-away (as you well know — there’s much insanity out there (lurking in the hearts of men!); we’ll do our best to fight it!)

          • TheShadow01

            There is a lot of insanity. I don’t know this particular issue. So I can’t comment. But I’m a good listener of people, (and appreciate a good joke as well as the next guy ) (your humor is something that I, just recently, almost lost and might still end up losing.) Idk. But I just only started following politics (say 5 years maybe) always believing my piers to be my better’s, intellectually speaking. (There is a point to this…I’m sorry). But when it comes to understanding people, you could say I’ve made it my business…and being hard of hearing all my life and now going blind. I think I have at least a different take of who we are as a society. It may be Totally wrong… But its probably different than other beliefs. At least on the things that I’ve actually have come to a conclusion on. A small list I admit. Lol. And even those, to me, are up for discussion and and change, of course. All this to tell you that I’m not a complete ameture (now it won’t fix this word!… It’s so difficult to write with this gov. Issued Smart Phone…this is taking forever!) sorry again. All this to say to someone much more knowledge able than me (won’t fix that word either!)… That I’ve never seen these people this way. This angry. I read comments all the time now. Especially the women. It seems to me from what I’m reading are so mad. I saw this one lady. She was raving on her twitter account TO D.Trump. like he was there listening and saying how he’s going to ‘get his’ and then she’s totally different and tells to her public diary how she’s so scared, that he’s going to destroy us all. And that’s just one woman…so many more I see and I just don’t see how we got here. Can’t type Just going to have to set up all my accounts up in the new ‘used’ computer. I am DONE with this new phone. Anyway. I think I’ve entered the twilight zone. Thx for listening. S.S.L.

    • TheShadow01

      You, my friend, are a true genius in a most exceptional way, and, Im sorry to say, at a very dark and disturbing time. Or so it seems to me.
      But, at any rate, I’m going to ‘follow’ you, if that’s okay? Even if it’s not, and I can get away with it, I’m going to. Lol.
      But, I’ll be quiet and just listen. You won’t even know that I’m here. Or there. Oh. I commented on something you write 7 months ago. And I rruky

  • StanUlam

    Contributing to Rape Culture. Reported for Title IX noncompliance.

  • hrhdhd

    At least you could do your training online. Mine was face-to-face, and my face doesn’t hide exasperation well.

  • Roger Burton

    My wife advocated for a student victim of sexual harassment. Then her boss retaliated against her. She complained. Then her boss’s boss retaliated against her. She complained. Then her boss’s boss’s boss retaliated against her. She complained. Instead of following policy and resolving the issue, now Chancellor Dennis Shields is trying to fire her from her position as a tenured faculty member at UW Platteville. We can save the money on the sexual harassment training by writing policies and laws that we actually intend to follow and then follow them. We need to hold administrators accountable. That is where the disconnect is. Not at the student level. It’s at the enforcement level. Let’s set reasonable policy and then hold administrators accountable to following them. My wife is set to appear before a kangaroo appeal hearing panel at UW Platteville on Sept 19, 2017 from 4-7 pm. I’ll post the exact location on my website when the location is finalized. I hope you can all come see how Chancellor Shields abuses his faculty.