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Government regulations proposed to address sexual violence on campus

By Daily Bruin

June 19, 2014 1:49 pm

This post was updated on June 22 at 9:10 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Education proposed several new regulations Thursday morning to strengthen universities’ policies on sexual violence following growing concerns about sexual assault and harassment on college campuses.

The regulations will require universities to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking and to record crimes based on gender identity as hate crimes. The new regulations will also change the Clery Act to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s definition of rape, which covers oral and object penetration.

The Clery Act currently mandates that universities report statistics on sexual assaults and other crimes in an annual report.

Under the new regulations, institutions will also be required to provide a prompt and impartial disciplinary proceeding for both sides involved in each case. Appropriately trained officials will be required to run each proceeding, and each side will have equal opportunities to have other individuals present at the hearings, among other regulations.

“The Department has the responsibility to ensure that our higher education institutions are creating safe environments for students and are appropriately reporting crimes,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement.

[UPDATE: Title IX already requires universities to treat both sides in a case equally, but institutions are rarely penalized for violating the policy, said Laura Dunn, a student representative in the committee that helped the Department of Education create new regulations. Though the federal government may withdraw funding from universities for Title IX violations, that penalty has never been used.

Dunn, a law student from the University of Maryland and a founder of SurvJustice, a nonprofit organization that works to assist survivors of sexual violence, said she thinks these updated provisions will have more power because there would be a $35,000 fine attached to every violation of the Clery Act.

In their annual crime reports, universities would also have to describe their sexual assault prevention and awareness programs.]

A large portion of the changes come from the renewed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of March 2013. The act included a new provision that sought to better address and prevent sexual assault.

“When fully implemented, these rules will allow us to drag the issue of sexual assault on campus out of the shadows,” said Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), a congresswoman who proposed some of the changes as part of the Violence Against Women Act, in a statement.

[UPDATE: Dunn said she thinks this commitment from the federal government shows that the tide is changing to better address sexual violence on campus.

“We need a lot of tragedies before change happens,” Dunn said. “But now, we are reaching a tipping point.”

The University of California revised its policy on sexual violence in March. The revised UC policy includes several new definitions related to sexual assault and harassment, as well as definitions for dating violence, among other updates. In a statement in March when the UC revised its policy, President Janet Napolitano said the UC is continuing to evaluate its policy.

In April, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault also made several recommendations for universities, such as anonymous surveys of sexual assault cases every three years and assault prevention training programs that teach bystanders about ways to intervene in incidents of sexual violence.

The UC said it is continuing to support and increase bystander intervention programs and review additional documents released from the federal government, according to the UC’s analysis of the White House recommendations in April.

The U.S. Department of Education is currently receiving public comments on the proposed regulations. The new regulations will be finalized by Nov. 1.

Compiled by Jeong Park, Bruin senior staff.

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