Associations Respond to McCaskill Sexual Assault Legislation
In 2014, concerns over sexual assaults on campus reached new heights, drawing the attention of the White House and members of Congress. On July 30, a bipartisan group of eight senators, led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA). The proposed legislation would require institutions to take preventive measures to protect students from sexual assaults, increase accountability, and require the establishment of new campus resources for assault victims. McCaskill's bill would impose stricter penalties for Clery Act violations and create new transparency requirements through annual student surveys.
In response to a request from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), NACUBO joined a number of higher education associations in sending a detailed letter that both outlines the McCaskill legislation and thoroughly describes some of the challenges institutions face in carrying out current laws. It states, "Campuses are legally and morally obligated to provide sexual assault prevention, education and training programs, and, when an assault occurs, to support the victim/survivor with a wide array of services and resources. At the same time, we must ensure that our disciplinary and grievance systems and procedures are fair to all parties."
The letter then details specific concerns and offers suggestions to improve the legislation and focuses on provisions dealing with: confidential advisors, campus climate surveys, memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement agencies, Title IX and responsible employees, Clery reporting requirements, conflicts between Clery reporting and Title IX, and the proposed penalties for institutions.
The letter asserts that, "Higher education institutions must redouble their efforts to prevent sexual assault, to support victims, and seek resolutions that are fair to both parties. Most institutions have already begun these efforts and they will continue in the months ahead." However, in response to the bill as introduced, "We support concepts included in the Campus Accountability and Safety Act and believe they can help campuses in better preventing and addressing sexual assault on campus. However, we believe the legislation could be improved to more effectively achieve its intended goals."