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Sexual Assault on College Campuses Examined by House Subcommittee

On September 10, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing, “Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault on College Campuses.”

Dana Scaduto, campus counsel, Dickinson College, stated, “The legal requirements imposed on institutions for responding to, and resolving reports of, sexual assault over the last four years have created challenges for colleges and universities in meeting our obligation to be fair and impartial in our dealings with all of our students, including accusers and those accused…While providing support to a victim/survivor is a critical first step in effectively dealing with an assault situation, a number of the requirements for on-campus resolution of such complaints challenge our commitment to fairness and equity to both students involved.” Ms. Scaduto continued, “We [colleges] do not have the authority to subpoena witnesses and control evidence. Our disciplinary and grievance procedures were designed to provide appropriate resolution of institutional standards for student conduct; they were never meant to adjudicate misdemeanors, let alone felonies. The most common claims of sexual assault we encounter on our campuses are not the clear cut physical force or stranger rape cases. They are claims arising from behavior occurring behind closed doors between two students acquainted with each other but who do not know each other well and both of whom may be under the influence of alcohol. While there is no doubt that regrettably sexual assaults can and do occur under these conditions, it is the question of whether consent was given, withdrawn, or possible that frames the central issue in the majority of situations we review.”

In arguing for more guidance and assistance for colleges and universities to improve their efforts to end sexual harassment and violence, Lisa M. Maatz, vice president, Government Relations, American Association of University Women (AAUW), stated, “AAUW urges Congress to provide additional appropriations that support schools in educating students, faculty, and staff – particularly Title IX [P.L. 92‑318] coordinators, as well as training the appropriate administrators on the relevant laws and best practices…For the first time ever, this coming year, the U.S. Department of Education will have access to the names and email addresses of Title IX coordinators at every school…While many schools are working diligently to respond to incidents of sexual violence, as of August 19, 131 schools were under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding their compliance with Title IX. These investigations stem from complaints, as well as proactive compliance reviews. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has staffing levels today that are almost 15 percent below levels 10 years ago and more than 50 percent below levels over 30 years ago. The Office for Civil Rights needs additional funding to be able to provide ongoing technical assistance to schools and to hold bad actors accountable.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Penny Rue, vice president, Campus Life, Wake Forest University; and
  • Joseph Cohn, legislative and policy director, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

 

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