Capitalism is like water. Just as water will always seek the tiniest nooks and crannies in which to seep, capitalists seek niches in which to earn profit. As anti-rape activists have seized on Title IX as a tool to dismantle college rape culture and to bring about safe and equitable campuses, some enterprising companies have discovered that helping universities resist change is profitable. I call them the Title IX profiteers.
The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM, http://www.ncherm.org/) is one of the Title IX profiteers. NCHERM is an umbrella law and consulting firm that has eight subsidiaries, several of which specialize in Title IX issues. Part of the new “risk management” industry targeting higher education, NCHERM and its subsidiaries have nearly single-handedly rewritten Title IX policies and procedures at universities through its expensive Title IX administrator training programs, policy-writing curricula, consultation services, and legal representation. They trained the new Title IX professionals into thinking about Title IX not as an issue of equity, as Title IX was designed to do, but as a risk to be managed. Through online workshops, on-site workshops, centralized workshops, and through individual consultation services and legal representation, NCHERM has revised the Title IX policies and practices of an untold number of schools and trained hundreds of administrators into thinking about Title IX the “NCHERM way.”
But the “NCHERM way” does not protect women or men from gender inequities, nor does it protect students from rape and sexual harassment as Title IX requires. In fact, the “NCHERM way,” as practiced at many schools, re-traumatizes victim-survivors and advocates who report sexual misconduct. And students and their advocates are resisting. Over the last several months, a virtual tidal wave of formal complaints have been filed against schools with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). In late May, 2014, OCR announced that it is investigating 61 colleges and universities for possible Title IX violations based on sexual assault and harassment. (They have released a separate list of schools and colleges that are being investigated for other possible Title IX violations, e.g. discriminatory athletics programs.) Although schools may minimize the pending investigation to claim that the investigation is merely “a compliance review,” as is the case at my university, correspondence from the Office of Civil Rights documents that the feds are investigating specific cases.
Of the 61 schools who are being investigated by OCR, 37 of them are NCHERM clients. That’s 60.6%, folks.
These facts make a rational person wonder why the 61 schools are throwing good money after bad. Presumably, if these schools hired NCHERM in the first place, then they followed NCHERM’s advice. They paid NCHERM to train their Title IX investigators the NCHERM way. Their Title IX coordinators joined ATIXA, one of the 8 subsidiaries, and attended Title IX how-to workshops. They paid NCHERM for model website text. They paid NCHERM to rewrite their Title IX policies the NCHERM way. They paid NCHERM to learn how to follow NCHERM’s “OCR-proof-your-school” practices. And yet they still got zinged by OCR. And now many of them are paying NCHERM to represent them in the OCR investigation.
Is this not profiteering? And at whose expense? Who is carrying the costs to put profit into the hands of NCHERM and other higher education risk management consultants? And here I’m not just talking about costs in terms of money, but the costs to students and to the well-being of our university communities.
Below is a list of schools who are documented as being under OCR investigation as of 5-28-14 who are also listed on the NCHERM website as active clients. Note that my school, the University of Alaska System, is listed. Also below is an email from a staff member at OCR that accompanied a list of all 61 schools that are being investigated.
New as of July 26, 20-14: Located in the text above is the document received from the University of Alaska System that lists how much NCHERM and its subsidiaries have been paid by UA. I posted this as a response to NCHERM’s comment on this blog (and on their own http://atixa.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-ncherm-group-partners-respond-to-recent-press-coverage/) that inaccurately claims that NCHERM was hired only after UA was put on the OCR list for investigation. Clearly, the University’s data documents that this claim is incorrect.
Thanks to http://payload72.cargocollective.com/1/0/19238/3744155/Brian_Rea_TITLEIX.jpg for the cool Title IX graphic.