Within the past year we have had two visits from Peter F. Lake to the Northwest. This past summer Student Activities and Student Affairs hosted Lake for a workshop focused on Student Activities and Recreation. And the second visit was at Pacific Lutheran University hosted by a variety of local institutions, including Evergreen and the Association for Student Conduct Administrators.
Lake is Chair and Director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law in Florida. Recently, he has authored the Foundation of Higher Education Law & Policy, and Beyond Discipline. Additionally, he is also well known for The Rights and Responsibilities of the Modern University a book Lake co-authored with Robert D. Bickel.
Lake is fascinating to listen to, and I was pulled into his mix of humor, seriousness, and advice. To make sense of things, I’ve blended my notes from both of these visits to create a few nuggets of Peter Lake inspired considerations, concerns, and thoughts on the future.
Risk Management: College life is immersed in a culture of student safety. Keeping students safe is paramount in Student Affairs! But at the same time, many core functions of a college and learning practices are inherently risky. For example, travel, athletics, and large events, all represent opportunities for students to learn and have fun, but can also represent risk to both person and property. In much of the world outside the United States, safety is an expensive luxury good, but on a college campus it’s the standard. A previous legal standard for an institution’s relationship with students was “reasonable care” or a “duty of care” standard. Today’s evolving requirements show us that, in Lake’s words, “safe as possible” is a new standard for the millennial generation. This is hard and expensive to maintain. But one piece of Lake’s advice is that students should be clearly informed and participate in the process of identifying the risks associated with certain activities, such as a safety workshop prior to a kayaking trip, best practices for traveling or learning how to manage a large concert gathering.
Sexual Intimacy Issues: Student “hook-up” culture is a new norm of in the challenges of building healthy student relationships. Some college students have a hard time understanding what it is like to develop healthy intimacy connections with others, which in turn, stem into any number of behavioral concerns. In general, parents and administrators are generally not in tune with the sexual activities of a college student. One observation from Lake is that college students have often been protected and carefully regimented by doting parents prior to landing in in college. Better programming and education is needed.
Dear Colleague Letter (DCL): The DCL was issued just fourteen months ago and landed in the higher education environment with significant impact. This continues to build on Title IX compliance and is part of a Department of Education (DOE) expansion into higher education in a way previously unseen. In a nutshell, the letter was issued to call attention to the large number of acts of sexual violence that go unreported across college campuses. The DCL attempts to clarify that under Title IV, the institution must take immediate actions to reduce sexual violence as well as sex discrimination on campus and provides requirements on how to report and investigate allegations of both. From Lake, this is built on the ideal of voluntary compliance from the DOE for the institutions, but Lake is concerned that some institutions may be test cases for litigation if they do not take these provisions seriously.
Predators & Social Justice for Sexual Assault Victims: Related to DCL above, are concerns about who is today’s sexual misconduct predator? Lake shares they can be hard to detect and can sometimes be found within the ranks of college student leadership. Conduct code systems need to aid in identifying repeat sexual assault offenders and appropriately addressing these students. One concern about college conduct code systems, shared by Lake, is a lack of justice for victims of sexual assault. As these systems are rooted in a legal culture, it’s nearly impossible for the victim to not be double victimized. This can be very challenging to reach outcomes that help the victim feel as if social justice has been delivered.
Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act: Partially fueled by the DCL, this pending legislation would amend Title IV to create specific language to combat sexual violence on campus. This bill was also co-sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Some critics say it may go too far into defining what is a healthy relationship between students on campus, but similar to the DCL, does represent a new federal presence to assist colleges in working through this complex area.
In summary, if you get a chance to hear or read materials from Peter Lake, it’s well worth your time. Student Activities has some of his books if you’d ever like to borrow for a little summer reading.