Senate bill would punish universities, colleges that ignore sexual assaults - The Buffalo News
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Senate bill would punish universities, colleges that ignore sexual assaults

A bill introduced Wednesday in the U.S. Senate would impose large monetary penalties on colleges and universities that fail to implement new services, training standards and other requirements aimed at preventing sexual assaults on campuses.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, is among eight co-sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which will force colleges and universities to designate “confidential advisers” who would work with student victims of sexual assault in reporting the crime to campus authorities and local law enforcement.

Schools also would be prohibited from disciplining students who come forward with reports about sexual violence.

The bill also includes:

• Minimum training standards for campus personnel;

• New transparency requirements, including a uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings that doesn’t allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints of sexual violence for members of that subgroup alone.

• A requirement for all colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with applicable local law enforcement agencies to delineate responsibilities and share information so that when an assault occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction;

• Penalties of up to 1 percent of an institution’s operating budget for non-compliance and an increase in penalties for violations of the Clery Act, which established crime reporting criteria for higher education institutions.

Those penalties would increase to $150,000 per violation from the current $35,000.

A 2000 Justice Department report estimated that less than 5 percent of victims of rape attending college report their attack.

A 2010 investigative series from the nonprofit, non-partisan Center for Public Integrity found that in many cases, victims wishing to report sexual assault experienced confusion over how to report, confusion over acceptable standards of conduct and definitions of rape and sexual assault, and a fear of punishment for activities preceding some assaults, such as underage drinking.


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