ATIXA Research Award Grant Recipient Four-Part Blog Series: Part II

Part II of IV: Faculty and Staff Experiences and Perceptions of Mandated Reporting (MR)–The Survey

How Can We Learn More About the Mandated Reporter Experience? Part II of IV

By: Christina Mancini, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, and Sarah Koon-Magnin, Ph.D., University of South Alabama

In the first Blog entry—“Why Care about Faculty and Staff Experiences and Perceptions of Mandated Reporting (MR)?”—the authors made the argument that evaluating the merits of compelled disclosure policies requires a deep dive into the experiences and perceptions of those on the front lines of disclosures—“responsible employees.” Historically, the voices of faculty and staff have not factored into the development and implementation of compelled disclosures policies (Weiner, 2017). This is problematic for many reasons; prime among them is the fact that there should be “buy-in” among faculty and staff concerning compelled disclosure procedures. At the same time, it is important to understand how the disclosure process affects reporters. In this paper, the authors describe their research plan.

The Research Plan

In the Summer of 2020, the authors submitted their proposal to study mandated reporters’ attitudes and experiences to the ATIXA Research Grant program. The authors felt strongly that a national survey of university employees was needed to illustrate how MR might function—or backfire—in practice. Without an adequate understanding of the RE perspective, the authors would miss opportunities to evaluate the impacts of compelled disclosure policies in practice. The authors were thrilled to learn ATIXA saw merit in the proposed project and agreed to fund it starting Fall 2020. Once accepted, the authors got to work!

The Instrument

The authors first re-tooled a prior instrument used to tap views and perceptions among faculty and staff at two diverse universities. That study, entitled “Faculty and Staff Perceptions of Title IX Mandatory Reporting Policies at Two Institutions” (Koon-Magnin & Mancini, 2022) is forthcoming in the journal, Violence Against Women. This prior study sought to understand the extent of MR reporting among faculty and staff members employed at two diverse colleges, as well as their perceptions of the benefits and drawbacks of MR. The authors found that while most of the university employees surveyed were aware of their reporting duties and would likely comply, one in five were uncertain of their obligations.

Moreover, 10% of employees in the Koon-Magnin and Mancini (2022) study disclosed that they had made a report in the past. About half reported positive experiences (e.g., “relief that I fulfilled my duties”) and half experienced negative outcomes (e.g., feelings of role conflict, distress, unsatisfied with the process). For the current project, it was clear that the authors needed to extend the focus of Koon-Magnin and Mancini (2022) and refine the instrument toward a national population. The authors thus consulted the literature and updated the survey questions to ensure the inclusion of other important correlates and variables.

To illustrate, the authors theorized that at the individual-level, having taught a sexual victimization course or serving on a sexual misconduct committee might shape attitudes toward the MR process. Moreover, at the institutional-level, working at a historically Black college/university (HCBU) or private college could impact experiences and views among REs. After finalizing the survey, the authors submitted the research materials to their respective Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and received approval in early Spring 2021. The survey examined four sets of questions:

  • The “Basics”: Here, the survey included measures such as having ever made a report due to a compelled reporting policy, the reporting experience, etc.
  • The “Knowledge”: A second set of indicators tapped the extent of awareness, knowledge, and training of REs.
  • The “Perceptions”: A third grouping of variables assessed how REs view their obligations and other facets of MR and Title IX more generally, such as the circumstances under which MR should apply (e.g., faculty-perpetrated assault on student victim).
  • The “Demographics”: The last part of the survey accounted for institutional-level (e.g., type of college/university, whether a sex crime scandal has occurred recently in the institution) and socio-demographic factors (age, sexual identity, race, tenure-status, etc.) to identify variation across employees.

For this blog series, the authors focus on two areas that may be of particular interest to ATIXA members: 1) Faculty and staff perceptions of the conditions of assault/misconduct that should trigger MR; and 2) Reporter experiences upon making a disclosure.

Recruitment

Recruiting during COVID-19 was a challenge for their other project and the authors anticipated it would be difficult for the current study. For this reason, the authors casted a wide net and undertook several methods to recruit a diverse sample of university employees. The authors purchased ad space in the Academe, the official e-periodical for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to appear from March until April 2021. The authors then reached out to their professional networks—colleagues who work in the field of victimization and sexual assault and requested their participation. The authors also contacted special divisions (e.g., the Division of Victimology) within their two academic organizations, the American Society of Criminology (ASC) and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), to request that an email invitation be sent through the divisions’ listservs.

The authors also sent the invitation via listserv to the Sex Offense Policy Research (SOPR) Workgroup, a non-profit organization comprised of scholars who study sexual violence, including sexual misconduct in higher education. Additionally, the authors reached out to request survey advertisement in other professional organizations outside of criminology and criminal justice, such as the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) “Womxn in Student Affairs” Knowledge Community. ATIXA was kind enough to also share the invitation through its professional listserv as well.

In the invitation, the authors used a snowball approach, asking the initial email recipient to consider sharing the survey link with other colleagues who may have interest in the subject matter. This approach can help maximize sample size and reach participants the authors may have missed in their initial invitations. The authors sent several reminders throughout the Spring and Summer of 2021. The final sample size included 125 respondents.

References

Koon-Magnin, S. & Mancini, C. (2022). Faculty and staff perceptions of Title IX policies at two institutions. Violence against Women. https://doi.org/10.1177/10778012211070315

Tune in for the next installment where the authors share their findings!

View Part III of the blog series

Apply to ATIXA’s 2022 Research Grant