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Are Climate Surveys Part of Title IX/Clery Act Compliance?
Posted by On Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On April 29, 2014, the White House Task Force issued its “Not Alone” report with an overview of how to plan and conduct a campus sexual assault climate survey, as well as a sample survey based on best practices. The report urges “schools to show they’re serious about the problem by conducting the survey next year.”

In a May 2015 article, “Climate Surveys Are Coming,” readers were told, “The task force’s suggestion that schools conduct climate surveys is one of several signals that surveys soon will be required as part of a Title IX/Clery Act compliance program.”

On the same day that the White House report came out, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued the guidance document, “Questions & Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence,” which listed conducting climate surveys as one of the ways to “limit the effects of the alleged sexual violence and prevent its recurrence,” if a victim requests confidentiality and does not want formal action taken against the alleged perpetrator.

Other signals that campus climate surveys soon may be mandated include OCR agreements resulting from Title IX investigations and compliance reviews that require schools to conduct surveys, including: Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Montana, Southern Methodist University, Lehigh University, Harvard Law School, Lyon College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, University of Dayton, Cedarville University, Glenville State College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, State University of New York, and Rockford University.

Instead of waiting for federal laws or Title IX guidance that mandate climate surveys, some states have already enacted laws requiring them:

  • Maryland House Bill 571 requires institutions of higher education to “DEVELOP AN APPROPRIATE SEXUAL ASSAULT CAMPUS CLIMATE SURVEY, USING NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED BEST PRACTICES FOR RESEARCH AND CLIMATE SURVEYS,” and submit to the Maryland Higher Education Commission on or before June 1, 2016 (and every two years thereafter), a report aggregating the data collected by the survey, including:
        1. Types of misconduct
        2. Outcome of each complaint
        3. Disciplinary actions taken by institutions
        4. Accommodations made to students
        5. Number of reports involving alleged nonstudent perpetrators
  • The New YorkEnough is Enough” law signed on July 7, 2015, requires all New York colleges and universities to conduct campus climate surveys at least every other year. The survey requirement goes into effect on July 7, 2016.
  • The State of Washington passed a new law (SSB 5518.SL), requiring state universities, the regional universities, The Evergreen State College, the community colleges, and the technical colleges to conduct a campus climate survey and report their findings to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2016.
  • Louisiana passed a new law (SB 255) which provides, “When funding is made available, each public postsecondary education institution shall administer an annual, anonymous sexual assault climate survey to its students.”
  • In addition, the Massachusetts legislature is considering Bill S. 650, which would create a task force to develop a sexual assault climate survey to be administered by colleges and universities selected by the task force.

Meanwhile, Boston University launched a student survey in March 2015 (see FAQs about BU’s survey) and, while not required by law, the University of California conducted a campus climate survey on its campuses in Spring 2013 (see results and FAQs). Previously, we’ve reported on published data from other climate surveys, what experts say, and how to get started.

With Congress back in session, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act may have gained some momentum from the July 29th hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. Testimony received at that hearing included strong support from the Association of American Universities for campus climate surveys, pointing out that it is important that schools directly or indirectly control survey administration so that it addresses the unique circumstances of individual campuses.

We will continue to watch this closely as the patchwork quilt of climate survey requirements continues to unfold. We will also be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, October 13th with Peter Novak from University of San Francisco and Jessica Ladd from Sexual Health Innovations about climate surveys and data.  Follow our twitter account @CampusClarity for the link to register as the date gets closer.

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How the HALT Act would Transform Title IX Enforcement
Posted by On Saturday, June 6, 2015

Last summer we wrote about the HALT Act, Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act. The bill was introduced into the House by Representatives Jackie Speier and Patrick Meehan. According to Congresswoman Speier’s website, the HALT Act will significantly expand the federal government’s ability to hold colleges and universities accountable if they fail to protect their students’ civil rights by:

(1) requiring the Department of Education to issue penalties for noncompliance with civil rights requirements under its authority, including Title IX;
(2) increasing penalties for violating the Clery Act from $35,000 to $100,000;
(3) creating a private right of action for students harmed by institutions that fail to meet campus safety requirements;
(4) instituting biennial climate surveys;
(5) requiring greater transparency and public disclosure of a list of institutions under investigation, the sanctions (if any) or findings issued pursuant to such investigations, and copies of all program reviews and resolution agreements entered into between higher education institutions and the Education and Justice Departments under Title IX and the Clery Act;
(6) increasing funding for Title IX and Clery investigators by $5 million;
(7) expanding institutional requirements to notify and publicly post students’ legal rights and institutions’ obligations under Title IX; and
(8) creating an interagency task force to increase coordination between agencies and enhance investigations.

The HALT Act is similar to the CASA Act, the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, introduced last year in the Senate by Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, which strengthens the enforcement of Clery Act and Title IX and would also require schools to provide an annual climate survey.

Contact us at 1-800-652-9546 to find out more about how we can help your institution comply with Title IX and how we can help you with climate surveys. Follow us to stay up-to-date on compliance news.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, March 13, 2015

An interview with the director of new documentary The Hunting Ground, the Clery act turns 25, and the OCR reveals it is investigating four more schools—pushing the total over 100.

The Hunting Ground Director on Courageous Survivors and the Birth of the Film

An interview with Director Kirby Dick about his latest documentary, The Hunting Ground, offers a disturbing portrait of the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses as he describes “hearing the same story over and over” when interviewing victim/survivors about their assault, sexual predators, and the institution’s response. This interview with Dick in the National Post offers sobering insight into the process of the film’s creation. Dick talks about how the conversation sparked by campus screenings of his previous film, The Invisible War, which dealt with sexual assault in the military, led him and producer Amy Zeiring to make a documentary about the same crime in the context of higher education. During Q&As after showing The Invisible War, students quickly turned the discussion to campus sexual assault and then he started getting emails and letters asking him to “please make a film.” Dick says it’s exciting to see the courage of college-aged advocates who “take on their institutions…to create this national debate,” but creating safe campus environments “should be on everyone.”

Clery Act Turns 25

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Clery Act, named in memory of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh freshman who was sexually assaulted and murdered in her dorm. The law requires colleges and universities to disclose reports of crimes committed on and near campus. Earlier this month marked the second anniversary of the Campus SaVE Act  that expanded higher education institutions’ crime reporting requirements to include relationship violence, stalking, and hate crimes based on gender identity and national origin.   In addition, the Campus SaVE Act requires colleges and universities to develop comprehensive prevention programs to train students and employees how to recognize, report, respond to, and prevent campus sexual violence.

OCR Now Investigating Over 100 Schools

Last week we reported that Grinnell College has requested an OCR investigation of their own sexual assault investigation procedures. This week we have a story that makes it clear that if that request is granted, Grinnell will be far from alone. In fact, as of this month, the Office for Civil Rights is investigating over a hundred schools for possible non-compliance with Title IX and the Clery act, an all-time high. When the OCR first released the list of schools under investigation last April there were fifty-five schools under investigation.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 13, 2015

A new study suggests disturbing trends in the frequency of sexual assault reporting, what Canada could learn from American sexual assault laws, and what American colleges could learn from the military academies.

Do Schools Report More Assaults When They’re Being Investigated?

A study published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law found that schools being audited by the Department of Education saw an average rise of 44% in the number of reported sexual assaults. More worrisome, however, is what happened after the audit ended—the average school went back to the pre-audit number of reports. One possibility is that schools over report assaults while being audited out of an overabundance of caution. Another uglier explanation, favored by the researchers, is that schools under report violence when they think they can get away with it. In any case, the New York Times article points out that climate surveys, a key aspect of the proposed Campus Accountability and Safety Act, could result in more accurate, consistent information.

What Could Canada Learn from America’s Higher Education Laws?

While The New York Times calls for passage of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would amend the Clery Act, Canadian news outlet CBC is pointing to that 1990 law as an example of the sort of legislation needed to address campus sexual violence in their country. While observers in this country often decry what they see as slow or inadequate responses to sexual assault cases on college campuses, CBC points to cases in which students used the Clery Act to force schools to respond to rape and other violence on campus in a relatively timely manner as evidence that similar legislation is needed in Canada, where a lack of such laws at the national level leads to an inconsistent “patchwork” approach.

What Can Colleges Learn from Military Academies?

Just as Canada may have something to learn from the United States, American colleges might take a page out of the military service academy’s book when it comes to sexual assault prevention. The U.S. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point have been under scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault cases for some time, as has the military as a whole. As a result, they have implemented more extensive anti-violence programs than many liberal arts universities. For example, at Annapolis, students are required to participate in training during all four years of their education. The program is further distinguished from other higher education training by the fact that current students lead lessons and discussions. That approach is already being considered by Dartmouth College as a potential model for their own anti-sexual violence training programs. It is also worth noting that both Senators Claire McCaskill and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who have worked on reforms to improve how the military handles sexual assault, are now working together to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, October 17, 2014

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In recognition of the occasion, as well as a very serious and important issue on college campuses, we have three stories for you about domestic and dating violence and what can be done to prevent it.

Sexual Assault Activists Turning Their Attention to Dating Violence

After successfully starting a national conversation about sexual assault on college campuses, and beginning to create actual change around the issue, feminist activists are turning their attention to another very important topic: domestic and dating violence amongst college students. The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act added a provision to the Clery Act requiring schools to disclose the number of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking incidents reported on campus. Now, student activists are documenting institutions that have failed to comply with new requirements. The issue of relationship violence on college campuses is a particularly pressing one, given research suggesting that college-aged women are the most likely to be victim/survivors of dating and domestic violence. Hopefully, some of the same tactics that have been shown to help prevent sexual assaults, including bystander intervention and training, will help turn the tide against domestic and dating violence as well.

What Can Employers Do for Victim/Survivors of Domestic Violence?

Of course, domestic violence is a threat not just to college-aged women but to people of all ages. That ugly fact has an equally ugly corollary: that domestic violence can often spill over into the workplace. This piece, from Fast Company, recognizes that fact, and suggests a few simple measures that employers can take to protect their employees from potentially dangerous intimate partners. Author Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., a Manhattan District Attorney, notes the importance of recognizing the signs that an employee is being abused and offering victim/survivors support in the workplace. Specifically, he points out that, “Companies should have proactive mechanisms in place to support victims, provide them with services, and keep them safe.” He recommends simple but important steps such as tailoring a victim/survivor’s schedule and work location to their needs, making security aware of the situation and the identity of the abuser, and having an emergency contact in the event the victim/survivor cannot be reached.

Can Training Prevent Domestic Violence?

The NFL has caught a fair amount of well-deserved flak this season for its accommodating stance towards players widely known to be guilty of domestic abuse. There are, of course, any number of things the NFL could and should have done better. One particularly interesting suggestion comes from violence prevention educator Jackson Katz, who has worked with NFL players in the past. Katz is part of the Mentors in Violence Program, which trains young men not to perpetrate sexual and domestic violence. He believes that a more consistent anti-domestic violence training program in the NFL could help change a culture that tacitly accepts violence against women. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has promised to implement just such a program for all players in the wake of this year’s scandals. It may well be that training in other settings—including academic ones—could be a much needed step to combat domestic violence in society beyond the football field.

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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.”

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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.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 25, 2014

Here’s the latest news about college sexual assault and prevention efforts from the last week.

Clery Act Fines Almost Always End Up Lower Than Proposed

An examination of the 21 Clery Act fines that have been imposed by the Department of Education on colleges and universities since 2000 shows that the fines universities actually pay are, almost invariably, lower than the amount initially proposed. Of the 21 fines, 17 ended up being lower than the amount initially proposed by the Education Department, with an average reduction of more than 25% and the Pittsburgh Technical Institute receiving the largest reduction of 50% of the proposed $110,000 fine, ultimately paying $55,000. While this trend may seem at first glance to be evidence that the Education Department is going easy on Clery Act violators, campus safety advocate Daniel Carter points out that the reductions are usually the result of settlements between schools and the government, which, like out-of-court settlements in the criminal justice system, typically benefit both parties. Carter suggests that a more important issue to be addressed is the need for more transparency in Clery Act investigations, which imposes the additional penalty of bad publicity.

Campus Sexual Violence Will Continue “Until There’s A Cost

Representatives from 64 colleges and universities, researchers, advocates, and federal officials were among the several hundred people gathered last week at Dartmouth College for the Dartmouth Summit on Sexual Assault.  Attendees included Lynn Rosenthal, the White House adviser on violence against women, who issued this challenge to the audience:  “It’s no small thing that you are undertaking . . . [but] if we get this right . . . we will have a cohort of college students who leave school knowing that sexual assault is unacceptable.”

Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, issued a warning to schools that do not comply with Title IX and Clery Act requirements to address campus sexual violence. She is willing to do what has never been done before to punish noncompliance — withhold federal funds.

David Lisak, a researcher and forensic consultant, helped organize the summit. Lisak is an expert on interpersonal violence and his research found that serial rapists are responsible for a large percentage of campus sexual assaults. Calling on higher education leadership to step up, Lisak said that campus officials “need to have budgets they can rely on to build comprehensive, multiyear programs.”

Laura Dunn, survivor and activist, recounted how two of her crew teammates raped her when she asked them to escort her from one party to another. She called on schools to remove perpetrators from campuses because, “Sexual violence will continue until there is a cost.”

25-Second Sexual Assault PSA

It only takes one shot and 25 seconds for this video to communicate an enormously important message about sexual assault and consent. As a bonus, it also provides a decent illustration of how to care for a friend who has had too much to drink.

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DCL: Good Faith Effort to Comply Required
Posted by On Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the ED issued a Dear Colleague Letter because they “have received numerous inquiries from institutions asking us to clarify their responsibilities under the Clery Act, as amended by VAWA.” This guidance repeats ED statements from May 2013 with a bit more clarity: “until final regulations are published and effective, institutions must make a good-faith effort to comply with the statutory provisions as written.”

The ED’s guidance says good faith compliance with amendments to the Clery Act, which include the Campus SaVE Act, requires institutions to expand their policies to describe the procedures and programs that satisfy those new requirements. For example, the Campus SaVE Act requires each school to have a policy that describes the procedures that will be followed when a student reports a sexual assault incident and what standard of evidence will be used to decide an accused student’s responsibility for the assault.

Therefore, the ED will be looking for information in the policy statement submitted with a school’s October 2014 Annual Security Report that satisfies all of the requirements in the Campus SaVE Act, including a description of its prevention program.

(more…)

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, July 11, 2014

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s report on college sexual assault, released earlier this week and based on the results of a survey of 440 schools and three roundtable discussions, concluded that most colleges and universities simply aren’t doing enough to prevent sexual assault on their campuses. With that in mind, we want to use this week’s roundup to bring you three stories of measures schools and lawmakers are taking to address the sexual assault crisis.

Can Banning Grain Alcohol Stop Campus Sexual Assault?

In Maryland, lawmakers are following the lead of neighboring states Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania by banning the sale of 190-proof grain alcohols. Supporters of the ban, a group that includes state legislators and local college administrators, describe such liquors, which include the popular Everclear, as “a different category of alcohol” and “the worst of the grain alcohol.”

(more…)

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