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In an article published today in Inside Higher Ed, Allie Grasgreen reports on efforts to force colleges and universities to respond to sexual misconduct cases more aggressively. Grasgreen provides an overview of the efforts of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in this vein, including OCR's April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter (mandating use of the low "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof in campus hearings for sexual misconduct allegations) and the "blueprint" for sexual harassment policies issued last month by OCR and the Department of Justice.
In the article, Daniel Swinton, senior executive vice president of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM), believes that university officials should take the blueprint "into account when reviewing or revising their own policies." According to Swinton:
"A lot of those letters tend to be talismans to help us understand how OCR interprets the law, and they say it's specific to that institution, and it's true, but you can see a general set of principles and approaches in those letters that are transferrable to many institutions. ... We look to those as more informal guidance."
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