Bill Aims to Curb Campus Sex Crime ; Colleges Would Face Fines for Failing to Comply with a Range of Requirements

By Steinhauer, Jennifer | International New York Times, August 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Bill Aims to Curb Campus Sex Crime ; Colleges Would Face Fines for Failing to Comply with a Range of Requirements


Steinhauer, Jennifer, International New York Times


The measure, backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would impose financial penalties on colleges that do not comply with the law's requirements.

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation designed to curb the startling number of sexual assaults on American college campuses. The measure would require schools to make public the results of anonymous surveys concerning assault on campuses, and impose significant financial burdens on universities that fail to comply with some of the law's requirements.

The legislation, which was presented on Wednesday, comes as the White House is putting increased pressure on colleges and universities. The administration formed a task force in January to address the issue, and the group found that one in five female college students in the United States has been assaulted.

"Very rarely does a bill become a truly collaborative process, and this bill has been truly collaborative and bipartisan," Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said Wednesday at a news conference. She has spent the last several months studying the problem of sexual assault on campus.

This year, the Department of Education released the names of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual assault complaints. It was the first time a comprehensive list of colleges under investigation for potential violations of federal antidiscrimination law under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was made public, further pressuring Congress to act.

The new measure would require every university in the United States to conduct anonymous surveys of students about their experience with sexual violence on campus, with the results published online. The survey, which had been pushed for by sexual assault victims, is similar to one conducted by the military, and would allow parents and high school students to make comparative choices.

The bill would also increase the financial risk for schools that do not comply with certain requirements of the bill, like conducting the surveys. Schools would face possible penalties of up to 1 percent of their operating budget; previously, universities that violated student rights in sexual assault cases risked the loss of federal funding, but the punishment was never been applied and lawmakers said it was impractical.

The bill increases penalties under the Clery Act -- a federal law requiring all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid to disclose information about campus crimes -- to up to $150,000 per violation, from $35,000. Last year, the Department of Education fined Yale University $165,000 for failing to disclose four sexual offenses involving force that had occurred over several years, and other schools have also been fined. …

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