After the release of the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act in July, responses have varied in the higher education community regarding support for the proposed legislation.
Higher education institutions, professional associations, and politicians alike have contributed their thoughts on the bipartisan sexual assault legislation proposed in July. The bill, introduced by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), takes aim at sexual assaults on college and university campuses "by protecting and empowering students, strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions and establishing stiff penalties for non-compliance with the legislation’s new standards for training, data and best practices."
Although many agree that the intentions behind the bill are good, differing opinions have been expressed regarding the appropriateness of the approach and potential unintended consequences. Some of the statements made by various stakeholders were captured in a recent article from Inside Higher Ed, and include the following:
· The American Council on Education said it liked some elements of the bill, but said that much of it would add too much complexity to the already-confusing array of federal requirements that colleges must follow when it comes to handling sexual assault cases;
· The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities expressed some concerns about the legislation, including the requirement that universities enter into agreements with local law enforcement agencies for handling sexual assault cases, suggesting that if revenues from penalties went straight to police departments it could potentially create “undue incentive and may invite a bounty mindset;”
· Fairfield University was one of those institutions. Tom Pellegrino, Fairfield University’s vice president for student affairs, said that while the problem of sexual assault on college campuses is not new and he has concerns about executing the new requirements, it has “now reached the level of legislative prescription” and that the concerns he has don’t override the positive goal of the bill; and
· Counsel for the State University of New York system support the proposed legislation, noting that system’s campuses will likely already be in compliance with the new provisions.
For a more comprehensive overview of the support and opposition for the bill, read the full Inside Higher Ed article here.