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3 ways for students to decorate with recyclables

March 7, 2014 06:26 PM

Here's how to turn things you have lying around the dorm room or apartment into stylish decor.

1. Wine Bottles
After a night with the girls, used wine bottles can serve as flower vases. The bottles can be painted, spray painted, encircled in yarn or left plain-and-simple. An assortment of flowers can be collected and placed within each vase. Flower vase prices range from $2.50 from Crate&Barrel to over $20 million collectables. This project will only cost a student a good time with friends and the use of their imagination to incorporate room décor that shows off their interior design style.
Sample Project
Step 1: After finishing the bottle of wine, completely rinse out the bottle with water/
Step 2: Purchase artificial flowers from Walmart for $2.00 and arrange them in the empty bottle.
Step 3: Place the vase on the TV stand and enjoy the view.

2. Beer Bottles
Following game night, beer bottles do not have to end up in the trash can or recycling bin. They can also serve as vases or stacked up to provide a splash of color against a plain wall. Using glue, stickers or any other type of material, the bottles can either match furniture and appliances or stand out as art in a room.
Sample Project:
Step 1: Enjoy the case of beer and rinse out the bottles with water.
Step 2: Purchase the Activity Bucket from CVS for $6.50.
Step 3: Tie one chenille stem around the neck of each bottle.
Step 4: For one bottle, use glitter to draw designs on the body.
Step 5: For another bottle, glue 4 foam pieces to the body.
Step 6: Allow pieces to dry for one hour.
Step 7: Glue colored craft sticks to the lips of the bottles.
Step 8: Align the three bottles against the back of a plain wall.

3. Cardboard Boxes
Cardboard boxes typically accumulate when students move into their dorm rooms. Instead of dumping them into recycling bins, small and medium-sized boxes can be used for storage, jewelry or keepsake boxes. Pencil box holders, for instance, can cost between $4.99 on eBay to over $40 in stores.
Sample Project:
Step 1: Obtain a small or medium-sized cardboard box.
Step 2: Obtain 28 sticks that are different colors or dye wooden sticks in preferred colors.
Step 3: Glue down and align 7 sticks on each side of the box.
Step 4: Allow the sticks to dry onto the box for one hour.
Step 5: Place pens and pencils into your new pencil holder.

This story was published as part of a collaboration between Boston College's Magazine Writing class and Your Campus.


4 misconceptions about mentors

March 7, 2014 06:20 PM

Amid the hubbub of free coffee and cookies at Boston College’s weekly Dean’s Coffee, where business school undergraduates are able to interact with professors and deans outside of the classroom, sits Carroll School of Management Associate Professor of Information Systems John Gallaugher. Known for his commitment to inspiring and advising legions of student entrepreneurs, he’s always at Dean’s Coffee and students stop by each week to chat and share their latest ventures.

When asked about the importance of mentors in the success of entrepreneurs, he explained simply, “Entrepreneurs need mentoring.”

Using the success stories of former students building companies from the ground up as examples, he continued, “The task of building a business with a new product that addresses a new market is really unusual. ‘Is there a problem? Can you solve the problem? Can you make money?’ is easy to say, but hard to figure out.”

If everyone knows the benefits, then why doesn’t every entrepreneur, especially younger ones, have a supportive mentor they can turn to for advice? Entrepreneurs tend to have misconceptions of what a mentorship actually entails. As a result, they don’t take the time to seek a mentor or they form a stilted relationship with someone that isn’t as beneficial for both parties as it could be. Five young individuals in the entrepreneurial community debunk four of the most common misconceptions about mentors.

1. A mentor is a glorified Rolodex.
A mentorship isn’t always about networking. Current Boston College student and founder of Quabblejack, a curation of goods with integrity, Claudio Quintana offered, “I don’t think the relationship between a mentor and a mentee is as much of a utilitarian one as it is more of what you can share in terms of your experiences, advice, [and] problems.”

2. A mentor must be in your field of interest.
Boston College Venture Competition (BCVC) Chair Paul Hillen reflected, “When you have a mentor, you want someone who has been there before.” Individuals from other industries can offer a fresh perspective. Fellow member of the BCVC Executive Board Annie Weber facilitates the process of pairing student entrepreneurs with mentors and explained, “If students need law advice, we’ll match them with a lawyer. If they’re worried about scaling [their business], we’ll match them with someone who went from a team of five to fifty.”

3. A mentor is always superior to you.
Boston College student and Regional Director of Compass Fellowship, a social entrepreneurship program for students, Derek Switaj commented, “The best mentor is a friend to you, who doesn’t mind being critical, who you can open up to, and who is willing to give and take advice. That friendship is of the utmost importance. You need to have no barriers or walls between you and your mentor. A mentor has to be open to that relationship and you need to seek that. It’s a two way street.”

4. A mentor can’t know you’re not perfect.
Co-founder of phyre, an app development company currently responsible for mobile app Rally, and former student of Gallaugher, Patrick Allen commented, “Your mentor has to be someone you can be completely transparent with. If you can’t tell the whole truth, then there’s nothing you can get out of a feedback session.” A mentorship isn’t a job interview. Sharing your weaknesses can even be more beneficial to your conversation with your mentor than just focusing on your strengths.

This story was published as part of a collaboration between Boston College's Magazine Writing class and Your Campus.


Boston College group encourages 'strong women, strong girls'

March 7, 2014 06:13 PM

To anyone standing outside the elaborately-decorated door, the sounds coming from the inside of Abbie and Caitlin’s dorm room would seem to indicate an average Sunday night. The listener would likely hear encouraging words, embarrassed giggling, and full-out laughter resonating from within—all the signs of typical end of the week procrastination. In reality, the eight girls inside, who represent the executive board of the Boston College chapter of Strong Women, Strong Girls, are busy working on one of their most important projects of the year – a photography-based exhibit for O’Neill Library which will showcase the work their organization does on and off campus.

Female empowerment has been a hot topic on campus since last September, when USA Today published an article discussing a BC study which found female seniors left the university reporting lower levels of self-confidence than when they entered. Unsurprisingly, these findings have caused concern on campus, with students and administrators alike wondering about ways to reverse this trend.

While a follow-up study has indicated that this is not uniquely a BC phenomenon, many people have been quick to criticize the university, claiming the administration should increase the number of female empowerment organizations on campus. However, as many women who seek to get involved know, these criticisms ignore that many of these organizations already exist on campus and are fighting to make themselves known. SWSG is one of these groups, and its upcoming exhibit in O’Neill is its mentors’ attempt to broadcast its mission to BC’s community.

SWSG is a nonprofit organization that pairs college women with at-risk girls in grades 3-5 for an hour and a half each week. The mentors also participate in weekly meetings at their campuses and engage in other mentor bonding activities. Thus, while the focus is on the younger girls, SWSG aims to do more than mentor. It seeks to create cycles of mutual empowerment for women and girls, working to form communities of college mentors that help them to become confident role models for girls.

As one of BC’s mentors, Lydia Ducharme, explains, “I think if our goal is to raise the aspirations of our girls, then it’s not realistic to think we can go in and help our girls [without first] helping ourselves. If we’re not confident in who we are, then we can’t mentor for these girls. So, we [prepare] ourselves to do that. It’s an offshoot of what we do.”

One of BC’s chapter directors, Christina Johnsrud, has experienced the organization’s impact on her, saying her parents have noticed a change since she joined.

“They have noticed that I am a lot more outgoing, a lot more confident, a lot more outspoken,” she explains.

She attributes this change to her girls as well as the BC SWSG community, claiming, “I feel like our girls really mentor us and are teaching us so much… The bonds we form with them – us really believing in them and then they start believing in us –it’s just this whole cycle.”

SWSG’s exhibit will run from February 28th – March 28th on the first floor of O’Neill and will feature photos of mentors and girls testifying to their strengths by holding signs responding to the prompt, “I am strong because...”

The mentor designing the project, Abby Blaisdell, hopes BC women will attend. As she sees it, “People either like to highlight women who are very successful or, in the case of the article, women whose self-esteem is low. They never say what bridges the gap. And that makes us… and this exhibit important.”

This story was published as part of a collaboration between Boston College's Magazine Writing class and Your Campus.


Photos: Actor Liam Neeson tours BC campus with son

February 18, 2014 03:09 PM

Actor Liam Neeson visited Boston College Tuesday to tour the campus with his son, according to reports and photographs posted on social media by the university, students and others.

The star actor's appearance at the Chestnut Hill campus comes on the heels of two recent visits by NBA great Kobe Bryant.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.


After pushback from parents, BC nixes proposal to relocate school for youths with disabilities

February 13, 2014 12:37 PM

After pushback from parents, Boston College announced Thursday it has stopped exploring a proposal to relocate a longstanding on-campus school for children and young adults with disabilities to another site a few miles away.

In November, BC announced that it was in the early stages of exploring a potential plan to move the Campus School by merging it with the Kennedy Day School at the Franciscan Hospital for Children nearly three miles away in Brighton.

University officials said at the time that the Kennedy Day School’s new 20,000-square-foot facility would offer better amenities and programs for children in the Campus School, which had seen enrollment dip in recent years.

But parents, who said they were caught off-guard by the proposal, objected. They pleaded -- including through an online petition with nearly 4,500 signatures -- for BC leaders to reconsider saying that a key reason they chose the Campus School was for the unique culture and environment it offers by being located at a college. That aspect would be lost on a hospital campus, parents feared.

On Thursday, the BC administrators announced that they have reached a deal with Campus School parents to collaborate on a strategic plan to strengthen the school at its current location.

Both sides will work to find ways to increase enrollment, including by utilizing parent ambassadors and better marketing efforts to promote the school. And, steps will be taken to balance the school’s budget, including through fundraising that officials hope will also help pay for capital improvements to the school and better wages for staff there.

Officials said administrators and parents talked extensively to reach the agreement.

“These discussions have been very helpful as they have given Campus School parents a better understanding of the issues facing the school, while giving Boston College a greater appreciation of their commitment to preserving and strengthening the program,” said a statement from interim provost Joseph Quinn.

The Campus School parents asked for an opportunity to keep the Campus School at BC, increase enrollment and balance the school’s budget, and we have agreed to give them this opportunity,” Quinn added. “We are all committed to making this plan work.”

Kristen Morin, a leader of the Parent Advisory Committee to the Campus School, said she has “100 percent confidence” that the plan will lead the school to “thrive in the years to come.”

“We plan to take all of the reasons that we love our school and translate them into a sustainable program on behalf of the Campus School,” she said in a statement.

The Campus School, a private, publicly-funded special education school serves students ages 3 to 21 who have severe disabilities. Housed in Campion Hall, it has operated on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus since its founding 44 years ago.

Campus School director Don Ricciato described the deal to keep the school at BC as a “win-win” for the university and the school.

“We all want what is in the best interest of our students, and we hope that this plan will enable us to continue to provide them with an excellent education within an even better Campus School,” he said in a statement.

In addition to its full-time staff, the school is helped by a network of BC student volunteers.

BC senior Chris Marino is the co-president of the Campus School Volunteers of Boston College organization.

“The Campus School Volunteers are grateful for the opportunity to work with Boston College in our efforts to not only keep the Campus School on the Heights, but to help it thrive and grow into the strongest program possible,” he said in a statement. “We are excited to continue working towards a sustainable future for the program.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.


Legal scholar, moral theologian Cathleen Kaveny joins Boston College faculty

February 12, 2014 03:42 PM

The following is a press release from Boston College:

Cathleen Kaveny, a legal scholar, moral theologian and nationally noted expert on the intersections of law, morality and religion, has joined the faculty at Boston College as the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor. With an appointment in both the Law School and Department of Theology, Kaveny is the first person to hold a faculty appointment in two schools at the University.

Kaveny is author of the award-winning book Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society. A columnist for Commonweal magazine, Kaveny has also written for America magazine and authored approximately 100 journal articles and book chapters. She has been interviewed by various media outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, National Catholic Reporter, and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” among others, and is currently at work on her next book, tentatively titled Prophesy without Contempt: An Ethics of Religious Discourse in the Public Square.

Prior to her arrival at Boston College, Kaveny was the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, where she had been on the faculty since 1995. She also held visiting professorships and fellowships at Yale University, Princeton University, University of Chicago and Georgetown University. Previously, Kaveny was an associate with in the Health Law Group at the law firm Ropes & Gray in Boston and clerked for Hon. John T. Noonan, Jr. in the US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Kaveny graduated with a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Princeton University. She earned a JD and PhD from Yale University. She is the incoming president of the Society of Christian Ethics, the major scholarly organization of Christian ethicists in North America. The society meets annually in conjunction with Jewish and Muslim ethicist groups.

“I am delighted and honored to be joining Boston College’s distinguished faculty. I am also very excited about the possibilities for interdisciplinary collaboration in this academically rich and diverse community,” said Kaveny, who teaches a graduate theology course on Faith, Morality and Law this semester. In the fall, she will teach contracts at the Law School and a seminar cross-listed with the Theology Department.

Kaveny said she plans to connect with Boston-based stakeholders on issues such as health care ethics and the law, and as president of the Society of Christian Ethics will focus on the intersection of law and Christian ethics.

“Professor Kaveny’s appointment places Boston College at the forefront of scholarship in both law and theology, with her most recent work offering critical insights on how American law engages highly contested moral debates in an increasingly diverse society,” said Law School Dean Vincent Rougeau. “She will provide an exciting link between the Law School and the College of Arts and Sciences by offering cross-listed courses that explore the intersection of key legal and theological concepts such as justice, mercy, and complicity with evil. We are thrilled to have her join us.”

Added Founders Professor of Theology James Keenan, SJ, acting chairman of the Theology Department, "Bringing Professor Kaveny to Boston College is a spectacular move for the entire University community and in particular, the Law School and the Theology Department. She brings the rare combined competency of vigorously mastering law and ethics and teaches and writes with wit and brilliance. It is simply great to have her here.”

The Libby Chair was established through a gift by the late Darald Libby, JD '55, and his wife Juliet. The chair honors the couple's friend and mentor Rev. Michael G. Pierce, SJ, of the Jesuit Mission Bureau in Boston, who died in 1998. The inaugural holder of the Libby Chair was family law expert and longtime Law School faculty member Sanford Katz, now Libby Professor Emeritus.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Uber Boston announces competition between colleges for free week of rides

February 4, 2014 02:46 PM

With the spring semester in full swing and more cold weather fast approaching, Uber Boston announced a promotion Tuesday that will allow an entire college campus a free week of uberX.

The car-for-hire app is offering the free week to Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University, and Northeastern University students who get 1,500 people to sign up for Uber using their own campus code.

"This is extremely relevant for the new semester and the frigid weather we are having," said Meghan Verena Joyce, general manager of Uber Boston and Providence. "Students are looking to go out at night, reconnect with classmates, and start their internships. We just want to offer students an affordable, easy, and safe way to get around and thought this would be a great opportunity to start things off with a bang."

Students have until Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 11:59 p.m. to have their friends, family, and colleagues sign-up using their specific college code. With the promo code, new users will receive $20 off their first ride for uberX and the opportunity to win the free week.

The participating schools' promo codes are the following:

  • Boston University: BosuberXtraCredit1

  • Boston College: BosuberXtraCredit2

  • Northeastern University: BosuberXtraCredit3

  • Harvard University: BosuberXtraCredit4

Joyce said Uber timed the promotion to align with the 62nd annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament.

"It also happens to be the week of the Beanpot and while the players are competing on the ice, we thought the schools could compete and try uberX to win some rides."

While the school who reaches 1,500 people first will win all the fame and glory, Joyce said all the schools have the opportunity to win a free week of uberX if they get all the necessary people by Feb. 12.

"We are just incredibly excited to introduce ourselves to college students and to have them and their friends join together and rally for their school," Joyce said. "It really is an affordable way to get around the city of Boston and it opens up the city to the students. It gives them the option to get around and to safely do it. We are excited to see how this contest goes."

The discount is not valid for uberTAXI and students who already are an Uber user should encourage their friends to download the app, she said.

"Both new and existing riders will get a free ride of uberX if they get all 1,500 people and if I were an existing rider, I would sign up my fellow classmates and post on Facebook to get as many sign ups with my schools promo code," said Joyce.

According to the Uber blog, students who aren't new to the service have a number of ways to get the word out to the rest of their campus.

Here are some ideas to make things easy:

  • Share the signup code with your dance squad, newspaper staff, lacrosse bros, or Quidditch crew.

  • Tell your RA and TA. Tell your librarian. Get your favorite dining hall lady to get on board.

  • Pitch yourself a tent in the quad and recruit random passersby. Bonus points for tourists sporting your school's sweatshirts.

  • You can share the code with anybody you'd like; as long as they are new to Uber, it will count towards your goal.

Kyle Plantz can be reached at Find him on Twitter at @kylejplantz.

Reports of sexual assaults rise on Boston-area college campuses

February 3, 2014 11:00 AM

Reports of sexual assaults at Boston-area colleges have risen over the past five years, a Globe review of federally reported data has found.

Campus safety experts say the rise in reporting of sexual assaults suggests that many colleges – pushed by government agencies, victims, and new federal guidelines – are improving efforts to address the problem by expanding education and outreach and by more thoroughly reporting the widely underreported crime.

“When we see sexual assault numbers increase, that hopefully means the barriers to reporting are finally beginning to be addressed, which means you are beginning the steps to solve the problem,” said S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative who has spent more than two decades studying campus safety.

An estimated 88 percent of college victims do not formally report sexual assaults, according to a federal study.

Across 22 of the largest campuses in and around Boston, reports of “forcible sex offenses” rose by nearly 40 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the most recent data supplied by colleges as required under the federal Clery Act.

The total of 113 sexual assaults reported in 2012 at the Boston-area colleges reviewed for this report is the highest level in a decade, and mirror trends at campuses nationwide. Meanwhile, reports of other serious type of crime at area schools – murder, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson – have declined or barely increased, according to the federal data.

The Clery reports cover allegations of crimes that occurred on campus, including dorms and other public property; at property owned by but separated from the main campus; and fraternities and sororities. They exclude other off-campus housing.

Below are examples from some of the schools’ with data that stood out:


Over the past five years, Harvard University has consistently reported more sexual assaults per year, and more incidents per enrolled student, than any other campus in the Boston area. In 2012, 38 cases were reported, up from 19 in 2008.

Harvard officials said the university has been active in recent years in trying to address the issue, including creating in 2002 a centralized office with victim-support services and resources to help students learn about sexual assault prevention and response.

“We firmly believe that more robust reporting of sexual assaults by victims is an important component of our efforts to prevent these crimes and ensure that victims get the support that they need,” said Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin.

UMass Boston

UMass Boston reported the second-highest number of alleged assaults in 2012, at 13, up from 0 five years earlier.

Crystal Valencia, a spokeswoman for the school, said none of the 2012 incidents involved a student from the university and only one of the 2012 reported incidents occurred on campus. The others happened at off-campus property the university either owns, leases, or controls.

“UMass Boston is committed to maintaining the highest standards for the safety and security of every person on campus,” Valencia said.

BU, Northeastern

Over the past five years, Harvard has led all local schools reporting on average about 10 sexual assaults each year for every 10,000 students. Still, those rates are still well-below estimates of actual annual rape rates. For instance, a 2007 Department of Justice-funded study estimated that about 5.2 percent of college women, or 520 in every 10,000, are sexually assaulted each year; the study did not calculate a rate for men or men and women together.

Other large local schools have reported significantly fewer sexual assaults each year. Over the past five years, Boston University and Northeastern University have each reported on average about two sexual assaults each year for every 10,000 students.

Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that trains colleges and universities to comply with the Clery Act, said she’s usually most alarmed by Clery reports with low sexual assault figures.

“We constantly tell parents and students that higher sexual assault numbers aren’t necessarily a bad thing,” she said. “It often means students know where to go to report and that they’re comfortable doing so.”

“I’m typically more concerned when I see a school reporting zeroes across the board,” Kiss added.

Yet, “All too-often it’s the colleges with the higher statistics that get labeled as being dangerous when in fact they’re usually the ones who are doing a better job reporting,” Carter said.

Madeleine Estabrook, associate vice president for student affairs at Northeastern, said the university is “very diligent” in reporting its Clery data.

She said the school’s low sexual assault reporting may be due to a wide range of variables that could impact the data, including the school’s geographic location and configuration, the number of students living on campus and the university’s efforts around sexual assault prevention and response.

“The work that is done to make the campus safe in secure is a very important variable to consider,” Estabrook said.

She said that five years ago, with help from a grant from the Department of Justice, the university revamped its violence support, response and education programming. That effort included building a collaboration among existing services on the campus, uniting programs around sexual assault, alcohol use and other campus safety issues.

Estabrook said the university's programming around campus safety is regarded as "cutting edge not only in Boston but also nationally."

BU created a campus crisis center in 2012 to focus on rape and sexual assault prevention and support for victims of such acts as well as other forms of physical abuse, such as hazing.

Colin Riley, a spokesman for BU, said the university is thorough and accurate in its reporting of Clery data.

And, "We also recognize it’s very important that students feel comfortable reporting," he said.

Riley said the university works to ensure students are aware of the issue.

"This is a topic that is frequently discussed on campus," he said.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Congress, experts call on federal officials, campuses to improve campus sexual assault data collection efforts

February 3, 2014 11:00 AM

More than three dozen members of Congress have written to the federal office in charge of enforcing the Clery Act, calling on it to do a better job of collecting data on campus sexual assaults.

Advocacy groups and researchers have been calling for better, more transparent data collection for years. The Globe’s review of Clery data -- federally mandated reports on campus crime -- found that the number of assaults reported by most, if not all, campuses – both locally and nationally – over the past decade have been much lower than estimates of numerous studies.

Even with a spike in reported campus sexual assaults over the past five years, the rates schools are reporting come nowhere close to figures in a 2007 Department of Justice-funded study which estimated that about 5.2 percent of college women are sexually assaulted each year.

Experts say such low numbers tend to mean schools either need to do more to make students feel comfortable reporting the crime or schools need to do a more thorough, honest job in their methods for collecting and reporting the data, or a combination of the two. Stronger federal oversight could be a key driver for this, too, experts say.

Campuses urged to monitor prevalence, not just reported cases

One part of the letter signed by 39 members of Congress called on the US Education Department's Office for Civil Rights to require colleges and universities to conduct anonymous surveys of students to more accurately report how prevalent sexual assault is on each campus – not simply how often it is reported.

An estimated 88 percent of victims do not formally report the crime, according to a 2007 study funded by the Department of Justice.

David Lisak, a clinical psychologist who has spent the past three decades researching campus sexual assault, said the fact that few, if any, schools study how prevalent the crime actually is on their campuses “underscores one of the major shortcomings in how higher education has been handling sexual assault.”

Lisak, who recently retired from teaching at UMass Boston, has advised US military officials on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault cases at service academies.

He said that changes made by the Department of Defense in just the past several years has led military academies to implement better methods of collecting meaningful data about sexual assaults than higher education has managed over the past two-and-a-half decades since the Clery Act was signed into law in 1990.

The country’s three military academies not only compile annual statistics on sexual assaults reported to authorities, but also conduct an anonymous survey of cadets and midshipmen every two years to get a more accurate picture of how many sexual assaults actually occur.

For example, during the 2011-12 academic year, 58 sexual assaults were reported at the service academies, according to a report from the Department of Defense to Congress. But an anonymous survey estimated the actual number of sexual assaults at the academies that year was about 526.

“We’ve really been focusing our efforts on trying to increase reporting so victims can get the help they need,” said Department of Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson.

Asked why few, if any, higher education institutions anonymously survey students regularly about sexual assault, Lisak said: “Because then the numbers are out there.”

“There’s still a lot of resistance,” he added. “All universities have mechanisms already in place [to conduct such a survey]. This would not be technically challenging really at any level. We really just need the will.”

The Jan. 29 letter from members of Congress also urges the education department office to: be more transparent about its investigations and enforcement actions around campus sexual assault and harassment; create a central, public database about laws and guidelines schools are expected to follow around the issue of sexual assault; and to require campuses to be more transparent in disclosing what each is doing to prevent and respond to sexual assault, including making available information about crime statistics, enforcement actions, and students’ rights under Title IX.

When asked for a response to the letter, Education Department press secretary Dorie Nolt said in a statement: “We have received the letter and will respond to it. We agree that this is a very important issue, which is why we have prioritized civil rights enforcement and are working to galvanize a national effort to help prevent sexual assaults and to better support survivors of sexual violence. In fact, last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum to establish the ‘White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.’”

Federal department unsure why some Clery figures seem off

The figures that the Globe reviewed for its story on campus sexual assault came directly from an online database run by the federal Education Department.

Every higher education institution in the US that receives federal financial aid is required by law to submit he data to the department. The department then posts those figures to the website,

The data dates back to as early as 2001, but some of the crime figures, particularly between 2001 and 2003 seem unbelievably high.

Jane Glickman, a spokeswoman for the federal Education Department, also doubted the validity of some of the data between 2001 and 2003 but said she had no idea why the numbers were likely wrong and said she did not know of anyone in the department would could provide an explanation for the apparent inconsistencies.

She said the department simply collects the data from schools and posts the numbers online. She said the department tries to check back with schools if certain numbers seem off, but otherwise the department does not analyze the data it collects.

Glickman also declined to comment on, and said she did not know anyone in the department who could comment on, why the Globe’s review found that the number of sexual assaults has risen in recent years while other crime types have gone down or held relatively steady.

“The law calls on the department to collect campus crime data and ensure that institutions are complying with the law’s provisions,” Glickman wrote in an email. “We do not analyze the data or do research into why certain crime categories are going up or down.”

However, the department is the only agency in charge of enforcing the Clery Act and its data reporting rules.

In the 15 years between 1997 and 2012, the department completed a total of 59 investigations into schools suspected of not being in full compliance with the Clery Act, according to a list of the finished reports on the education department’s website that the spokeswoman referred the Globe to. Of those, 34 investigations were completed in the four years between 2009 and 2012.

She said the department does not disclose investigations that are ongoing.

The department conducts such reviews if: a complaint is filed; “a media event raises certain concerns;” the school’s independent audit “identifies serious non-compliance;” or through a “review selection process,” the website says.

Glickman said the department takes all complaints and reviews seriously but noted that some reviews take several years and said that the department has limited resources to conduct such investigations.

A 2002 study funded by the Department of Justice found that about only 36.5 percent of schools reported “crime statistics in a manner that was fully consistent with the Clery Act.”

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights also investigates allegations of colleges and universities violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law protecting students from general discrimination.

Over the past several years, the number of such complaints related specifically to campus sexual violence has risen, according to data provided by department spokesman Jim Bradshaw.

In the both the 2009 and 2010 fiscal year there were 11 such complaints. There were 18 complaints in 2011 and 17 the following year before the number of complaints spiked to 30 during 2013.

In the department’s current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, there have already been 13 such complaints.

The office said it currently has 39 pending Title IX investigations involving allegations of sexual violence at post-secondary institutions.

Still, experts say more needs to be done to hold schools accountable.

“The Office for Civil Rights is broken,” said Colby Bruno, an attorney at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, who runs training programs about the education rights of sexual assault victims and helps some students file federal complaints against their schools.

“The law isn’t really lacking. Where we’re lacking is enforcement,” she added.

Getting Clery data from the Education Department website, especially for years prior to 2005, can be confusing and cumbersome.

Even after the data is found, it’s can be difficult to interpret, in part because schools are given leeway in how they interpret certain aspects of the law and thus how they report. For instance, Glickman said schools “have latitude” in how they determine what areas around their campus to include when they report Clery data.

“To me the data is vitally important because there’s a sense of accountability and I think schools need that,” said Bruno. “Reliable data is also important because we want to see if programming and prevention efforts are working.”

Other past, ongoing efforts to improve Clery

The letter from members of Congress was led by Democrat US Representatives Jackie Speier, of California, and Carolyn Maloney, of New York. The letter also said the office should provide campuses with better guidance about how to respond to same-sex violence and gender identity discrimination.

In recent years, some efforts have been made to improve the effectiveness of the Clery Act.

In a “Dear Colleague Letter” issued April 4, 2011, the federal education department outlined a series of guidelines for how colleges should respond to sexual harassment and violence.

Last year, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act, which added a section called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, a law setting new standards for how campuses report sex offenses. Schools will need to comply with those new regulations for the first time when they submit Clery reports this coming fall.

And, last week, to go along with the release of a White House report on the prevalence and devastating effects of sexual assault on college campuses, Obama created a task force of senior administration officials who, with input from campus officials, students, advocacy groups and law enforcement, will try to find ways to protect students from rape and sexual assault.

Obama said he the group’s first body of work is due in 90 days.

Advocates for sexual-assault victims say that, to go along with changes at the federal level, they have seen a surge in activism around the issue from students, campus organizations, and alumni.

Particularly, “We’re seeing a lot more victims willing to step forward and publicly talk about what happened to them and using that as a pressure for change,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-sexual violence organization.

“Hopefully that will put some pressure on colleges about how they deal with it,” he added.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

Obama pledges stand against college sexual assaults

January 22, 2014 02:30 PM


Surviving in Numbers

The numbers are small and large. They symbolize days, months, and years. They describe conversations had and not had. They represent attackers and attacks, scars and bruises, nightmares and suicide attempts.

But most importantly, the numbers illustrate resilience in the face of sexual assault--legal cases won, fears abated, and messages spread.

They inform the sexual assault awareness campaign "Surviving in Numbers," a Tumblr of posters submitted by victims and an exhibit at Massachusetts colleges and universities.

"The numbers are powerful because they give freedom for someone to express their story in the numbers they choose," said Ali Safran, the creator of "Surviving in Number and a Mount Holyoke senior, in November. "They also make it easier from people who are not survivors to understand because numbers are an easy concept."

Here are two striking ones: One in five women has been sexually assaulted at college, a new White House report found, and only 12 percent of student victims report the assault.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday an initiative to combat sexual assaults, particularly those on college campuses. Obama assigned a newly formed task force of college administrators 90 days to formulate a list of recommendations on preventing and responding to college sexual assaults, reported The Associated Press.

The White House Council on Women and Girls report, entitled "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," found that 22 million American woman and 1.6 million men have been victims of sexual assaults. The criminal justice response is often lacking, the report said, due to police bias and inadequate training.

‘‘No one is more at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted than women at our nation’s colleges and universities,’’ said the report.

According to a study of 2013 Clery Act reports, there were 101 reports of forcible sex offenses and one report of a non-forcible sex offense at local colleges and universities.


Forcible sex offenses on Boston-area campuses predominantly occurred in residential buildings.


Reports of sexual assaults on campuses have increased in recent years. In 2010, 68 forcible sex offenses were reported, according to Boston-area colleges' Clery Act reports. At Harvard University, the number of reports nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012.

Harvard University Police Department spokesman Steven Catalano told in September that because rapes are under-reported, he hopes the increase in reported cases means more victims are coming forward and not that more crimes are occurring on campus.

Decreasing the number of cases and making reporting them easier is the goal of Obama's task force.

"The president is committed to solving this problem, not just as president of the United States, but as a father of two girls," senior advisor Valerie Jarrett told the AP.

Safran said her own sexual assault came the year before college. "Surviving in Numbers" was inspired by her recollections of that time.

"I thought about the number of people who I had told my story to with no result," said Safran. "Then, I focused more on the number of things I've done since the assault."

Since it launched in October 2012, "Surviving in Numbers" has received more than 250 anonymous poster submissions. Safran has worked with students at Boston University, Tufts University, and Mount Holyoke College, displaying the signs on campus and offering time and supplies for victims to make one of their own.

Safran said she hopes the Obama administration will elicit survivor input in addressing the prevalence of sexual assaults.

"It’s a great step," she said, of the initiative. "And college campuses are a great place to start."

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