September 21, 2015

Gillibrand Statement on New Campus Assault Story

Study is Latest to Confirm Staggering Rates of Unwanted Sexual Contact: 23.1 Percent of Undergraduate Women Experienced Nonconsensual Sexual Contact 27 Colleges & Universities, More Than 150,000 Students Complete Survey - Good Indicator for Participation in Survey the Campus Accountability and Safety Act Requires

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today issued the following statement on the results of the new Association of American Universities (AAU) survey that found 23.1 percent of female undergraduate students have experienced unwanted sexual contact: 

“This is the latest study to confirm that at least one in five undergraduate women experiences some form of sexual assault on their campus. How many surveys will it take before we act with the urgency these crimes demand? We have a bipartisan, collaborative bill that will correct this broken system – from how these cases are handled and the resources available for all students, to what we know about the climate on every campus in America. The participation by schools and students alike in the survey released today shows a willingness and commitment to address sexual assault. It's time for Congress to catch up and pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.”

The AAU conducted its survey across 27 institutions of higher learning, including 26 of its member institutions, with participation from more than 150,000 students.

In June, the Washington Post with the Kaiser Family Foundation released its own survey of more than 1,000 people nationwide who attended college within the last four years and found that 20 percent of young women and 5 percent of young men say they were sexually assaulted. 

The widely bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act was introduced earlier this year, and now counts 35 total supporters in the U.S. Senate. Key provisions of the legislation include the following:

Establishes New Campus Resources and Support Services for Student Survivors: Colleges and universities will be required to designate Confidential Advisors to assist survivors of sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Confidential Advisors will coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance—at the direction of the survivor—in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or local law enforcement. Schools will no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation in good faith, like underage drinking.

Requires Fairness in Campus Disciplinary Process: All schools will now be required to use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and may no longer allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints. Schools must now provide written notification to the accused as well as the victim of any decision to move forward with a campus disciplinary proceeding within 24 hours of that decision. The notice must include details of complaint, a summary of the disciplinary proceeding and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.

Ensures Minimum Training Standards for On-Campus Personnel: This legislation ensures that everyone from the Confidential Advisors to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings will receive specialized training so that they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.

Creates New Transparency Requirements: For the first time, students at every university in America will be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem.  This new biannual survey will be standardized and anonymous, with the results published online so that parents and high school students can make an informed choice when comparing universities. The Department of Education will also be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence.

Campus Accountability and Coordination with Law Enforcement: This legislation will require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder to clearly delineate responsibilities and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction.

Enforceable Title IX Penalties and Stiffer Penalties for Clery Act Violations: Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. Previously, the only allowable penalty was the loss of all federal student aid which is not practical and has never been done.  The bill increases penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation from the current penalty of $35,000. Financial penalties collected from universities in violation will be distributed back to campuses through a new competitive grant program, administrated by the Secretary of Education, for which colleges and universities can apply for the purpose of researching best practices for preventing and responding to sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on college campuses and sharing such research with peer institutions and the Department of Education.

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities. Sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX.