Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made three key recommendations for reducing sexual assault on college campuses. In too many instances, college and school officials have failed to protect students from sexual harassment and violence or to promptly and effectively address it when it occurs. These recommendations, which the Senators made in a letter to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, incentivize schools to do more to protect survivors, thereby creating an environment where survivors feel safe coming forward. We applaud the Senators for putting forward three concrete recommendations that will make a real difference, not just for survivors, but for all students on college campuses:
1) Streamline Compliance and Enforcement. The Senators call upon the U.S. Department of Education to appoint one individual, reporting directly to the Secretary of Education, who is dedicated to violence prevention in colleges and universities. This person would help to streamline compliance and enforcement efforts of the Clery Act (enforced by the Federal Student Aid Office) and Title IX (enforced by the Office for Civil Rights).
2) Require All Schools to Conduct a Standardized, Anonymous, Annual Survey of Campus Sexual Assaults. Sexual assault is a heavily underreported crime. The Department of Justice has found that fewer than 5 percent [PDF] of victims of sexual assault report their crimes to the police. Colleges and universities must do more to encourage victims of assault and attempted assault to report these incidents, The Senators recommend that schools be required to administer an anonymous survey (inspired by the Department of Defense’s anonymous survey [PDF]) on an annual basis, and report the results online.
3) Make Federal Enforcement and Compliance Efforts More Transparent. The Senators call for a “centralized, user-friendly, searchable database” that enables anyone to search all pending and resolved Title IX and Clery Act complaints, compliance reviews, investigations, and resolution agreements. This data would give students more information about their schools, and also incentivize schools to take proactive steps to ensure that they are following federal law and their own policies.
We applaud Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Patty Murray (D-WA), for joining Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) for proposing these urgently needed reforms.