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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — In a one-year snapshot of sexual violence and harassment complaints, the nation's largest public university system spotted cases of repeat offenders, trouble-prone departments and abuse involving alcohol, social media and cellphones.
About half of the 29 state-operated campuses within the State University of New York noted discernible patterns — though involving small numbers — that have already influenced training and response.
SUNY Purchase, for example, said it would give students in foreign programs extra training after seeing that two assaults happened during travel abroad.
SUNY Delhi reported it planned "healthy breakups training" after finding a trend involving ex-boyfriends and girlfriends.
And SUNY Cobleskill said it would increase faculty harassment training after reporting a pattern of faculty members commenting on female students' attire or cleavage.
The reports are required for each of the next two years as part of a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which criticized SUNY's grievance procedures for not always providing for prompt and equitable resolutions to sexual harassment complaints required under federal Title IX.
Overall, the campuses attended by 219,000 students reported 145 cases of verbal sexual harassment and 238 cases of sexual violence or assault during the 2013-14 academic year. Only the state-operated campuses, and not SUNY's community colleges, were included.
"The trends don't really cross campuses," said Andrea Stagg, the associate counsel for SUNY in charge of Title IX compliance. "The trends you're looking for are a certain department, a team, a residence hall. A lot (of reports) are saying they weren't really seeing any patterns, except maybe the involvement of alcohol."
SUNY Potsdam cited cases of cellphone photos being used by ex-boyfriends to embarrass women. SUNY Fredonia planned to increase coordination with local police after finding that most problems were occurring off campus. New Paltz, Brockport and Canton each reported that an individual had been accused in two incidents and Oswego identified three departments where sexual harassment or discrimination was occurring.
SUNY Plattsburgh said two students accused of sexual violence were members of sports teams, leading to more training for teams and coaches. The college also was developing "new definitions of consent" and more training on consent for students, the report said.
"I've seen consent posters — has your partner consented?" said student Daniella Medina, 22, who welcomed the prevention efforts as well as educational emails advising students of available resources.
"There are people who don't think these things affect them," she said.
The reports also shed light on the various ways complaints are adjudicated, either through campus disciplinary proceedings, campus police or outside law enforcement agencies, depending on the wishes of the victim.
"The victim drives the bus," Stagg said.
At Buffalo State College, for example, two of its five sexual assault reports were settled through the campus judicial system, while one victim declined to pursue the case and two victims filed criminal charges, leading to arrest.
"Students can simultaneously file charges with the local police department, as well as file a complaint with the campus judicial process," said Karen Clinton Jones, the college's Title IX coordinator. "The understanding in that case is that the campus judicial process cannot interfere with the criminal justice process, but that doesn't mean that we can't work simultaneously in trying to address the concerns of the student."
The agreement also requires SUNY campuses to conduct "climate checks" by the end of each academic year through 2016 to determine whether its anti-assault policies are working. SUNY received an extension to submit the first report, for the 2013-14 academic year, a spokesman said.
A U.S. Education Department spokesman said the civil rights office is monitoring SUNY's compliance with the agreement "and we are working cooperatively with the system to ensure full implementation."
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