Fifty-five universities and colleges are currently under federal investigation for potential violations of the law regarding sexual violence and assault allegations. Both Republican and Democratic senators have gotten together to help put a stop to this rapidly growing issue.
At the end of July, a bipartisan Senate bill way introduced to help reduce these instances of sexual abuse and assault on college campuses, reports Julianne Stanford for website The College Fix.
The bill was announced at a press conference on Capitol Hill by sponsoring senators including Claire McCaskill, (D-Missouri).; Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.); Dean Heller, (R-Nev).; Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.); Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa); Kirsten Gillibrand, D-(NY); Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; and Mark Warner, (D-Va.) as well as sexual assault victims and victim advocacy organizations.
The bill is "taking aim at sexual assaults on college and university campuses by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions — including establishing stiff penalties for non-compliance with the legislation's new standards for training, data and best practices," according to a statement from Rubio's office.
The bill, called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, will ensure that college campuses follow proper procedure when dealing with sexual assault or otherwise face harsher punishments than have been in place previously, reports Allie Bidwell for US News.
One provision of the bill would require universities to conduct an anonymous, annual survey in order to assess the reality of sexual assault on campuses. The schools would be required to publish the results online so potential student's can have an accurate picture of this issue when comparing colleges.
The penalty for instances where colleges fail to report a sexual assault crime would be raised from $35,000 per violation to $150,000. School would also be fined up to 1% of their operating budgets if they fail to investigate a sexual assault on their campus.
The current penalty for failing to investigate a sexual assault case is loss of access to federal student aid, which has never been levied and schools do not view as a realistic punishment.
Universities will also be required to designate advisers who coordinate services for the student who is reporting the sexual abuse, reports Mary Beth Marklein from USA Today. Campus personal will have to undergo training in sexual related services, as to have a firm grasp on the nature of these situations. Athletic departments and other subgroups will no longer be allowed to investigate their own members and school will be coordinating efforts with local law enforcement.
This bill comes at a time where clearly there needs to be better provisions for victims of sexual assault. According to Arlette Saenz from ABC News, a survey was released weeks before the bill was announced stating that 41% of colleges and universities haven't investigated a sexual assault on campus in the past five years.
"When I reported that I was sexually assaulted, someone told me that rape was like a football game and that I should look back on that game to figure out what I would do differently in that situation," Annie Clark, 25, a former student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.
According to a report written by Amy Miller for Legal Insurrection the bill falls short in one major area: "a lack of due process afforded to the accused". College campuses ignore the rights of the accused in order to come to quick and clean resolution.