Blog

bill

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, May 29, 2015

More states are considering “Yes Means Yes” laws, and the five things you need to know about climate surveys.

More States Consider Affirmative Consent Bills

We’ve reported extensively on California’s “Yes Means Yes” law, which requires colleges and universities that participate in state student financial aid programs to adopt a definition of consent as an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” At the time, we described California as being “at the forefront of addressing a difficult societal problem with a controversial new law.” Now, as expected by our team of legal analysts, other states are following California’s lead with affirmative consent laws of their own. Connecticut’s Senate has passed a similar bill already—if the law is approved by the House and signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Connecticut will become the second state with an affirmative consent law. A movement in favor of such a law is under way in Pennsylvania as well, with some schools in that state having adopted an affirmative consent definition without a legislative mandate.

What You Need to Know About Climate Surveys

It is generally agreed that mandatory climate surveys are coming. What does your institution need to know to be prepared? This article from Inside Higher Ed provides a useful cheat sheet, listing five things you should know about mandatory climate surveys. They include the likelihood that such surveys will be required by law, the fact that surveys are already being designed and deployed at various campuses, the caveat that participation will pose unique challenges, what remains unknown about how the surveys will be utilized, and the possibility that climate surveys will reveal “blind spots” in a school’s prevention efforts. The notalone.gov website provides information about how to plan and conduct a climate survey, as well as a sample “empirically informed survey.”

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Wednesday, October 15, 2014

For this week’s roundup we have three developments in higher education law you should be following.

Clery Reports Reveal Dramatic Increase in Reported Sexual Assaults

Last week schools across the country released their Clery Annual Security Reports, which include statistics on the number of reported sexual assaults occurring on or near campus. This year’s batch of Security Reports reveals a dramatic increase in the number of reported sexual assaults at America’s top 25 colleges and universities. Perhaps counterintuitively, the increase in reported assaults is good news for activists and others trying to combat the epidemic of sexual violence on American campuses.  Historically, sexual assaults have been under reported  meaning that many victims did not receive the help they needed to recover. Activists believe that the increased number of assaults being reported is a positive result of the increased awareness around the issue in the last several years. Victim/survivors of sexual assault are more likely to report the crime knowing that their experience is not unique, that there are those who care enough to support and help them, and that by reporting their assault they may help remove the threat of a serial offender from their community.

Cuomo Follows California’s Lead in New SUNY Sexual Assault Policies

Last week we reported on California’s new consent law, the so-called “yes means yes” bill that requires a standard of affirmative consent at schools across the state. Now, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is following the Golden State’s lead by implementing a similar policy at all 64 State University of New York campuses. Other policy changes include statewide training programs for administrators, students, and parents, and immunity for students who report assaults that occurred when they were violating campus rules and laws (such as bans on underage drinking). In addition, SUNY campuses are required to distribute a Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, informing victim/survivors of their right to report assaults to the police or campus security. These new sexual assault policies represent not only a change in how SUNY handles sexual violence, but also the first time that uniform sexual assault policies apply across all 64 campuses. When announcing the change Cuomo noted that sexual assault is a national problem, saying, “I would suggest it should be SUNY’s problem to solve and SUNY’s place to lead.”

New California Law Protects Pregnant Graduate Students

In addition to the aforementioned affirmative consent bill, California has passed another law to remove obstacles for women in higher education. The bill was inspired by research conducted by Mary Ann Mason and co-authors Nicholas H. Wolfinger and Marc Goulden. Their research demonstrated that pregnancy and child-rearing represented major professional setbacks to women in academia. For instance, according to the research, “married mothers who earn Ph.D.’s are 28 percent less likely to obtain a tenure-track job than are married men with children who earn Ph.D.’s.” Anecdotal evidence abounds that the discrepancy is due to discrimination, with stories of advisors demanding that female graduate students return to research positions shortly after giving birth, or refusing to give letters of recommendation to women who took too long to return after having a baby. Protections for pregnant women created by the Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act usually do not  apply to graduate students, who are rarely classified as full-time employees, and Title IX protections are all-too-often ignored. The new law will fill this unfortunate gap, guaranteeing pregnant students at least a year of leave and non-birth parents at least one month, as well as requiring grad schools to create written policies “on pregnancy discrimination and procedures for addressing pregnancy discrimination complaints under Title IX or this section.”

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

5 Stories About Compliance That You Need to Know this Fall
Posted by On Thursday, August 28, 2014

We know you’re busy preparing your campus for the Fall semester or welcoming students to campus. Over the next few months, however, there are some important developments you should be following. Below is a handy overview.

The Campus SaVE Act Regulations

Yes, the Campus SaVE Act is already law, but the regulations are still being finalized and won’t be released until November.

Signed into law in March of 2013, the Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act. It includes three major provisions: it expands the crimes that schools must report in their Annual Security Report; it establishes what should be included in the school’s policies and procedures to address campus sexual assault; and, finally, it mandates extensive “primary prevention and awareness programs” — which include training for students and staff — regarding recovery, reporting, and preventing sexual misconduct and related offenses.

After a process of negotiated rulemaking, the Department of Education published the draft regulations for the SaVE Act in the Federal Register this June, collected public comments on the proposed regulations this summer, and will publish the final regulations by November 1st. The regulations will be effective by July 1, 2015. Though the final regulations have not been published, schools need to make a good faith effort to comply with the SaVE Act by October 1st this year.

Check out some of our past coverage of the SaVE Act.

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act (CASA)

Of the bills recently introduced into the Senate or House of Representatives, CASA has received the lion’s share of the attention. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill are the most visible sponsors of the bill, but CASA enjoys strong bi-partisan support and includes prominent Republican co-sponsors such as Marco Rubio. The bill was developed by McCaskill and Gillibrand through a series of roundtables with victims, survivors, experts, advocates, and administrators. The senators also conducted a national survey of colleges and universities about how they responded to sexual misconduct on their campuses. Based on the findings of the survey and roundtables, the bill aims to curb campus sexual violence “by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.”

Specifically, the bill introduces fines for non-compliant institutions of up to 1% of their operating budgets and increases penalties for Clery Act violations from $35,000 to as much as $150,000 per violation. In terms of transparency, CASA would establish a government administered annual campus climate survey as well as a website run by the Department of Education with contact information for all Title IX coordinators and information on the Department of Education’s investigations, findings, and resolution agreements related to Title IX. Finally, the bill increases support and resources for victims and survivors through provisions detailing extensive training for staff, the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all higher-education institutions, and a required amnesty policy for students who reveal conduct violations (such as underage drinking) when reporting in good faith an incident of sexual violence.

For our past coverage, check out this list of our stories about CASA.

The Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (SOS Campus Act)

Introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, and in the House by Susan Davis, the SOS Campus Act is fairly straightforward; it would require schools to “designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault and prevention.” The Advocate would help victims and survivors connect with support resources like counseling or legal services and guide them through the reporting and adjudication processes. The bill emphasizes the independence of this new position, explaining that “the Advocate shall represent the interests of the student victim even when in conflict with the interests of the institution.”

Boxer recently wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, asking her to voluntarily adopt the provisions in the bill: “I am working hard to pass the SOS Campus Act in Congress, but our students cannot afford to wait another minute for that to happen.”

Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act (HALT Act)

Introduced by Representatives Jackie Speier and Pat Meehan, the HALT Act — like CASA — would improve transparency around campus sexual assault and increase the sanctions for schools violating student’s Title IX civil rights.

The HALT Act would require public disclosure of resolution agreements and program reviews from Title IX investigations and create mandatory climate surveys (the first of which would have to be administered no later than April 1st, 2015). It would also create a Campus Sexual Violence Task Force that would, among other things, publish an annual report on these issues.

With the praise of some and the condemnation of others, the bill would also create much stronger sanctions for non-compliant schools. It gives the Office of Civil Rights the ability to levy fines, “the amount of which shall be determined by the gravity of the violation.” It also gives students a private right of action. In other words, students could sue schools directly without going through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

New Training Materials

The White House’s Not Alone report promised a host of new training materials and information on best-practices for this fall. Below is a list of what we can expect:

  • This Fall — “the CDC, in collaboration with the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women and the Department of Education, will convene a panel of experts to identify emerging, promising practices to prevent sexual assault on campus.”
  • September — “the Justice Department’s Center for Campus Public Safety will develop a training program for campus officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases.”
  • December — “the Department of Education, through the National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, will develop trauma-informed training materials for campus health center staff.”

We look forward to the release of these materials, which should prove valuable to schools trying to develop and improve their comprehensive awareness and prevention programs.

Even without the passage of any new legislation, new federal regulations, along with the recommendations and workshops, should provide schools with a strong set of requirements and best practices that will help them change campus culture to eliminate sexual violence.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 28, 2014

This week we’ve seen a number of important developments come out of California—perhaps no surprise, given its massive population and large system of public universities. These developments may be heralds of changes in the rest of the country, or given its size, it may be that the impact of these developments will be felt outside the Golden State. In any case, here are three developments worth watching.

SB 967

This recently proposed California Senate Bill attempts to address the widespread problem of campus sexual assault by standardizing, in various ways, schools’ responses to allegations of sexual violence. The measure requires, among other things, that conduct hearings involving sexual assault use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, and that sexual assault be defined as sexual activity without “affirmative consent.” The bill has already attracted a fair share of controversy.

AB 1433

SB 967′s not the only bill in California being proposed as a partial solution to the epidemic of campus sexual assaults. AB 1433 would require campus police to immediately report any violent crime or hate crime to local law enforcement, unless the victim doesn’t want to pursue a criminal charge.

New Federal Complaints Filed Against U.C. Berkeley

Meanwhile, the latest federal complaint filed against the University of California, Berkeley, this time by 31 current and former female students, demonstrates why measures like SB 967 and AB 1433 are being considered. This isn’t the first federal complaint alleging that UC Berkeley’s response to sexual assault is inadequate, but it is, to date, the largest.

Statement from U.C. Berkeley’s Chancellor Dirks on Sexual Assault

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that this statement from U.C. Berkeley’s Chancellor Dirks, pledging to take a number of steps to combat sexual assault on campus, was released the same week. In it, the Chancellor both promises additional resources to fight assault, and announces the creation of several administrative positions to assist survivors.

Talk About It!Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone