Grassley on Bipartisan Bill to Boost Accountability, Transparency on College Sexual Assault
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today joined colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation that addresses sexual assaults on college and university campuses by protecting and empowering students and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions, including penalties for non-compliance with the legislation’s new standards for training, data and best practices.
“Our bill has provisions to ensure that colleges treat sexual assault cases with the seriousness they deserve,” Grassley said. “This includes better coordination with law enforcement and clearer expectations for how colleges should handle reports of sexual assault. Sexual assault is not some mere code of conduct violation. It is a major criminal offense. Like with any crime, weak enforcement makes the problem worse. This bill will start to turn that around.”
The Campus Safety and Accountability Act was announced by Grassley and Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The legislation is intended to confront sexual violence against students, a problem facing increased attention as victims come forward.
The current system of requiring colleges to report sexual assault to the federal government results in non-reporting, under-reporting, and non-compliance with the already weak standards under current federal law.
The bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act will make it in the schools’ immediate best interest to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators.
Provisions of the bipartisan legislation include:
New Campus Resources and Support Services for Student Survivors: Under this legislation, colleges and universities will be required to designate Confidential Advisors who will serve as a confidential resource for victims of assaults committed against a student. The role of Confidential Advisors will be to coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, to provide information about options for reporting, and to provide guidance or assistance, at the direction of the survivor, in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or local law enforcement. To encourage individuals to come forward with reports about sexual violence, schools will no longer be allowed to sanction a student who reveals a violation in good faith, such as for underage drinking, in the process of reporting a sexual violence claim.
Minimum Training Standards for On-Campus Personnel: Currently, a chronic lack of training of on-campus personnel hampers sexual assault investigations and disciplinary processes, often resulting in negative outcomes for survivors. This legislation ensures that everyone from the Confidential Advisors, to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings, will now receive specialized training to ensure they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.
New Historic Transparency Requirements: For the first time, students at every university in America will be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new annual survey will be standardized and anonymous, 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.
Campus Accountability and Coordination with Law Enforcement: All schools will now be required to use a uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings and may no longer allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints of sexual violence for members of that subgroup alone. This legislation will require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with all applicable local law enforcement agencies to clearly 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.
Enforceable Title IX Penalties and Stiffer Penalties for Clery Act Violations: Schools that don’t comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. Previously, the only allowable penalty was the loss of all financial aid which is not practical and has never been done. The bill increases penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation from the current penalty of $35,000.
The federal Department of Education handles laws covering sexual assault on campus. Title IX, a federal gender equity law, requires colleges and universities to respond to sexual assault and harassment cases on campus and have policies in place to help prevent such incidents. The Jeanne Clery Act mandates that colleges and universities report information on crime on and around campuses and provide victims with select rights and resources.
Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his fellow Senate sponsors have been working together for months to examine federal, state, and local policies, collect feedback from stakeholders, and craft bipartisan legislation to better protect and empower students, and hold both perpetrators and institutions accountable.
Grassley said he has not been approached about particular cases in Iowa. He has been following efforts to address sexual assault at the University of Iowa.
Video of Grassley from today’s news conference is available here.