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10 senators reintroduce Campus Safety and Accountability Act following input of survivors, students, colleges and universities, law enforcement, and advocates

Washington, D.C. In a press conference today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was among a bipartisan group of 10 senators who introduced a strengthened version of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. With added input from survivors, students, colleges and universities, law enforcement and advocates, the bill would flip the current incentives of a broken system to provide real accountability and transparency from higher education institutions for sexual assaults occurring on college campuses. The legislation would also professionalize the response to, and reporting of, sexual assaults that occur on campuses in order to increase prosecutions, better protect and empower students, while also respecting the rights of the accused.

In addition to Rubio, the legislation was introduced by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Gary Peters (D-MI). The lawmakers were joined by Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, survivors and founders of the organization End Rape on Campus, as well as Scott Berkowitz from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

A video of Rubio’s remarks – in English and in Spanish – at today’s press conference is available here.

The legislation would secure landmark reforms for how colleges and universities address and report incidents of sexual assault that occur on their campuses. It incorporates feedback from key stakeholders to strengthen how student surveys are conducted and strengthens newly required training standards. The provisions safeguard both survivors and accused students. It extends the amount of time survivors have to file a case with the Department of Education, and sets new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process.

“Combatting sexual assaults on college campuses is fundamental to the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to higher education in the 21st century,” said Senator Rubio. “Too many lives are ruined by a failure to deal with campus sexual assault crimes efficiently, fairly and consistently. By requiring more information to be made available to students and parents, stronger partnerships between schools and law enforcement, and more tools to help victims achieve justice and begin healing, I believe this legislation will turn the tide against campus sexual assault.”

Key provisions of the legislation include:

  • 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, in doing so, also reveal that they were involved in a non-violent student conduct code violation, such as 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.

The Senators have been working together for months to examine federal, state, and local policies, collect feedback from stakeholders, and craft updated bipartisan legislation to better protect and empower students, and hold both perpetrators and institutions accountable.