Senators Offer Bill to Curb Campus Sexual Assault
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation designed to curb the number of sexual assaults on college campuses. The measure would require schools to make public the result of anonymous surveys concerning assault on campuses, and impose significant financial burdens on universities that fail to comply with some of the law’s requirements.
“Very rarely does a bill become a truly collaborative process, and this bill has been truly collaborative and bipartisan,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, who has spent the last several months studying the problem of sexual assault on campus.
The new measure would require every university in the United States to conduct anonymous surveys of students about their experience with sexual violence on campus, with the results published online. The survey, which had been pushed for by sexual assault victims, is similar to one conducted by the military, and would allow parents and high school students to make comparative choices.
The bill would also increase the financial risk for schools that do not comply with certain requirements of the bill, like conducting the surveys. Schools would face possible penalties of up to 1 percent of their operating budget; previously, universities that violated student rights in sexual assault cases risked the loss of federal funding, but the punishment was never been applied and lawmakers said it was impractical.
The bill increases penalties under the Clery Act to up to $150,000 per violation, from $35,000. Last year, the Department of Education fined Yale University $165,000 for failing to disclose four sexual offenses involving force that had occurred over several years, and other schools have also been fined.
The proposed legislation would also require colleges and universities to provide confidential advisers to help victims report their crime and receive services. Schools would be prohibited from punishing a student for things like underage drinking if they are reporting a sexual violence claim.