This morning, NASPA director of policy research and advocacy, Teri Lyn Hinds, joined Sue Riseling, Executive Director of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Officers (IACLEA), David Bousquet, Immediate Past President of the IACLEA Board of Directors, Abigail Boyer, Interim Executive Director of the Clery Center, and Altmann Pannell, Director of Government and External Relations at IACLEA, at a briefing for Congressional staff on issues of campus public safety as part of IACLEA’s 10th annual Capitol Hill Day. Ms. Hinds spoke on briefly on a variety of topics including federal and state budgets and financial support for higher education, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and several issues related to campus safety. Her prepared remarks are available below.
Good morning and thank you for taking time today to join us. Thank you also to IACLEA for the invitation to speak as part of this briefing today. As I prepare to leave this weekend for our annual meeting in Los Angeles, California, I can attest to the importance of student success and campus safety for student affairs leaders. Because of this, student affairs professionals are integral partners both on campus and for policymakers like yourselves in creating effective legislation to support students and student success around our nation.
NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. We serve a full range of professionals who provide programs, experiences, and services that cultivate student learning and success in concert with the mission of our colleges and universities. NASPA is comprised of over 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. Territories. NASPA members serve a variety of functions and roles, including the vice president and dean for student life, as well as professionals working within housing and residence life, student unions, student activities, counseling, career development, orientation, enrollment management, racial and ethnic minority support services, and retention and assessment.
On behalf of our members, the broader higher education community, and policymakers like yourselves, NASPA tracks issues that fall within the five tenets of our Public Policy Agenda, which is shown on your screen. Since our time today is limited, I’m going to touch on just a few of the issues that are top-of-mind for student affairs professionals right now related to those top three tenets – student success, student safety, and the costs of education.
Starting out with costs, as our national economy continues to (slowly) recover from the 2008 recession, state budgets are shifting toward a greater investment in education. The “free college” conversation continues, with 45 pieces of legislation appearing in 19 states plus DC, per a recent report by the Education Commission of the States. The policies vary and almost none is truly open to all students for all institutions, but states are actively taking up the charge to address college costs. One concern with these policies though is one of equity – making sure that available funds are going to those most in need by intentionally creating incentives to target those funds to the neediest students instead of implementing across the board assistance for all students.
At the federal level, we look to the longer term, toward ensuring sustainability of aid for today’s now-traditional students who will be tomorrow’s workforce. We know that in order for our national economy to have the workers needed to grow in the future more and more students will need to complete some post-secondary studies, and fewer and fewer of those students will have the ability to pay out-of-pocket for the increasing costs of higher education. For instance, we know that growing numbers of our now-traditional students are food and/or housing insecure. Campuses are increasingly responding to these needs with emergency aid programs and food pantries, but they can’t resolve the issues alone. Programs that provide child care for students or encourage states to make SNAP or transportation benefits available to students can help address that need. We also know that college campuses are reporting unprecedented demand for mental health services and support for students. Students, their families, and increasingly lawmakers expect that campuses will fill the gaps in our public health infrastructure in the name of supporting student success, but those services come at a cost that institutions are increasingly criticized over – I’m sure you’ve all heard accusations of administrative bloat being the real cause of increasing costs, for instance. In order to provide funds for our campuses to meet the needs of today’s – and tomorrow’s - students, we feel that attending to the long-term sustainability of federal budget cap decisions is paramount to our national economic growth.
I would be remiss not to follow that up by talking about the opportunity presented by the Higher Education Act (HEA) students. Years of state disinvestment and the diminishing purchasing power of federal grant programs have resulted in noticeable signs of wear. Today’s now-traditional student body includes many adults shouldering responsibility for not only their own education, but also that of their children and our system of federal financial aid and regulations are ill-suited to meeting the needs of either today’s students or the American taxpayer. NASPA’s priorities for HEA reauthorization focus on protecting, preserving, and perhaps most importantly modernizing our national investment in higher education for today’s now-traditional students.
Specifically, we support proposals that would modernize federal financial aid programs for today’s students by recognizing the needs of adult students with jobs and families who may be attending part-time, students who choose to return the investments of their families and communities by dedicating their careers to improving their communities through public service, and students who are working to improve their opportunities following incarceration. Additionally, addressing equity gaps and creating policy that directly and intentionally works to protect students, whether from predatory actors in the for-profit or loan servicing sectors or from systemic racism and acceptance of sexual harassment in our society, is paramount. Given the need to modernize HEA for today’s students, NASPA supports a comprehensive reauthorization of HEA, rather than the passage of an omnibus of specific, targeted bills amending parts of HEA independently.
Campus Safety and Prevention Education
That comprehensive approach is really part of NASPA’s philosophy toward higher education policy in general. NASPA plays an important role in advocacy for student safety and wellness, including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, occupational, and financial wellness, in public policy arenas, and in helping student affairs professionals navigate compliance with related legislation, regulations, and governmental guidance on issues ranging from mental health, sexual assault prevention and response, financial stability and literacy, and civic engagement.
One of NASPA’s priorities for legislation and regulation writ broadly is to think about where and how our responsibilities for prevention and education related to sexual harassment, hazing and other issues intersects both from an institutional perspective – how much “almost the same but not quite” sort of things are we doing to meet different requirements? – and from a student perspective – if we’re coming at them during the first two weeks of their first year with a dozen different education and prevention programs, how much of that are they actually retaining? We strive to find a balance between knowing that there are a lot of things our students can and should learn *in addition to* their academic work while they’re at our institutions and recognizing that colleges and universities cannot *alone* be responsible for correcting the ills of our society.
Campus Safety: Title IX
Moving a bit more specifically into the realm of campus safety, NASPA values the important role of the Department of Education in providing oversight for how higher education institutions develop fair and equitable sexual harassment and assault adjudication policies and processes. We submitted extensive comments that provide specific suggestions that address our major concerns with the proposed Title IX rule released late last year related to aspects that may reduce reporting of sexual harassment and assault by survivors, the creation of an overly legalistic process for campus conduct adjudication, limitations on the scope of institutional responsibility, the lack of guidance around proper implementation of informal resolutions, lack of clarity on an appropriate resolution timeline, and changes to the process by which institutions verify the aspects of Title IX from which they may be exempt due to the religious tenets on which they are founded. I am limited by our time today from going into detail on these concerns but am happy to provide additional information to any of you at any time.
Campus Safety: Hazing
Another aspect of campus safety that our members focus on is hazing. Hazing is a complex form of social ritual and - as ritual - it is not often identified even by those who are hazing victims as something that is wrong. Addressing cultures of hazing on college campuses requires careful thought, consideration, and planning. NASPA supports the intent of federal legislation proposed like the “Report and Educate About Campus Hazing Act” or the “REACH Act”, which addresses one aspect of the issue with hazing - creation of consistent campus educational programs, but we share IACLEA’s concerns that any reporting mechanisms or requirements must address inconsistencies in definitions between the Clery Act and other legislation. We encourage Congress to take action on aligning the reporting definitions to ease the burden of providing transparency to our students and our communities. Like sexual assault and structural racism, hazing is deeply embedded in our society and it will be a long and difficult path to unearth and remove it but we can and will keep making progress.
Campus Safety: Guns on Campus
Moving on now to something a little more complicated, in February, the House held their first hearing on gun violence prevention in nearly a decade, focusing on improving the system for background checks. That hearing featured two student witnesses who eloquently outlined the complexities of guns on campuses. Aalayah Eastmond is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last year recommended that more guns on schools and college campuses, either by arming teachers or increasing security presences in schools, is not the answer to preventing mass shootings. Ms. Eastmond instead advocated for more mental health counselors. Savanah Lindquist, a student at Old Dominion University, spoke in favor of allowing concealed carry permits on campus to allow victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to feel safe in their ability to protect themselves. As these students represent, views about guns on campus are varied and complicated.
Regardless of your position on gun control or concealed campus carry, NASPA knows that student affairs professionals will be called upon to respond to incidents that may occur on campus, such as accidental reveals of concealed weapons, suicide attempts, and more. While there isn’t research to date specifically comparing suicide rates on campuses that allow concealed carry vs those that don’t, there is research that clearly shows that increased availability of guns is correlated with increased fatality in suicide attempts. We urge policymakers to consider the complexity guns on campus adds for our professionals, including our colleagues in campus law enforcement.
Campus Safety: Free Speech
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions remarked on Constitution Day, September 17, 2018, about a so-called crisis of free speech on college campuses. In scripted remarks given that day, both decried that students are demanding to silence speakers they find hateful or offensive, even going so far as to accuse higher education institutions of “abandon[ing] principle and truth altogether” and accusing today’s students of being “sanctimonious, sensitive snowflakes”.
Colleges and university administrators are increasingly in the crosshairs in these conversations, accused of squelching conservative voices and refusing to invite or welcome conservative speakers. The unfortunately ever-present offensive Halloween costume controversy is even starting to break into the conversation. And while there are voices of reason arguing that this so-called crisis is manufactured, they are drowned out by the cacophony.
When large protests and counter-protests are expected to occur, college and university leaders spend countless hours planning and organizing both campus and community resources to ensure, above all, the safety of their students. These costs place a material demand on our campus law enforcement agencies, requiring them to add not only additional person-hours to aid with the immediate event, but also expectations for training and equipment beyond what may normally be required. At a time when our college campuses are increasingly asked to cut costs not seen to be directly related to educating students, these unexpected and sometimes sudden events force college and university leaders to expend resources to keep the peace instead of investing in students' educations.
Institutions have begun to explore more nuanced policies that allow them to restrict certain events likely to provoke unrest while remaining content neutral. A policy introduced by the University of California, Berkeley in 2018, for instance, would limit institutional costs for outside speaker security to $100,000 per academic year. The policy bears promise as a way for institutions to manage their financial liability for controversial speakers, but it remains to be seen if it will be effective or if other institutions will implement similar policies.
Thank you again for your time this morning; I’m happy to answer any questions you might have as our time allows or to remain after we’re finished.