Shaheen, Hassan Join Bipartisan Group of Senators in Reintroducing Legislation to Combat Sexual Assault on College & University Campuses
**The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would help prevent sexual assault on college campuses, protect survivors, and provide accountability and transparency for institutions**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a bipartisan coalition of Senators to reintroduce the Campus Accountability and Safety Act—legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses by protecting students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions. The Senators’ legislation would reform the way colleges and universities address and report incidents of sexual assault that occur on their campuses, and the bill safeguards both survivors and accused students. It incorporates feedback from key stakeholders to improve how student surveys are conducted, and it strengthens newly required training standards. The bill additionally sets new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process.
“For far too long the disturbingly high rate of sexual assault among college and university students has been swept under the rug,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan coalition to change our pervasive culture of sexual violence on college and university campuses. While there is no magic bullet to ending sexual assault, this legislation is an important step to address the underlying issues facing survivors on campuses in New Hampshire and across the country. We must work together to empower survivors with the tools they need to rebuild, hold those responsible for committing heinous crimes accountable, and ensure college and university officials are equipped to respond to sexual assault on their campuses.”
“We must do everything in our power to prevent the crime of sexual assault wherever it occurs and to ensure that systems are in place to support survivors, including on college and university campuses,” Senator Hassan said. “By ensuring that there are resources and support services in place for student survivors, strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions, and requiring fairness in the campus disciplinary process, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act is an important step forward in our efforts to make sure that all students are safe and feel supported on campus. By moving this bipartisan bill forward we can help change the culture around sexual assault on campus and help ensure that all of our young people can learn in a safe environment.”
The legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Joni Ernst (R-IA), among others.
Key provisions of the legislation include:
- Establishes New Campus Resources and Support Services for Student Survivors: Colleges and universities will be required to designate Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to assist survivors of sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators will coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance—at the direction of the survivor—in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or law enforcement. Schools will no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation in good faith, like underage drinking.
- Requires Fairness in Campus Disciplinary Process: All schools will now be required to use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and may no longer allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints. Schools must now provide written notification to the accused as well as the victim of any decision to move forward with a campus disciplinary proceeding within 24 hours of that decision. The notice must include details of the complaint, a summary of the disciplinary proceeding, and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.
- Ensures Minimum Training Standards for On-Campus Personnel: This legislation ensures that everyone from the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings will receive specialized training so that they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.
- Creates New Transparency Requirements: For the first time, students at every college and university in America will be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new biennial survey will be standardized and confidential, with the results published online so that parents and high school students can make an informed choice when comparing universities. The Department of Education will also be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence and the requirements of the Clery Act.
- Campus Accountability and Coordination with Law Enforcement: This legislation will require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder to clearly delineate responsibilities and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction.
- Stiffer Penalties for Clery Act Violations: Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. The bill also increases penalties for Clery Act violations up to $150,000 per violation from the current penalty of $35,000. Financial penalties collected from universities in violation will be distributed back to campuses through a new competitive grant program, administrated by the Secretary of Education, for which colleges and universities can apply for the purpose of researching best practices for preventing and responding to sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on college campuses and sharing such research with peer institutions and the Department of Education.