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Obama Administration Issues New Rule to Strengthen Response to Campus Sexual Violence

The Obama Administration announced a new rule last week to more effectively address sexual violence on college campuses by increasing transparency around campus disciplinary proceedings involving sexual violence and establishing rights for survivors within those proceedings.

The new rule, announced by the Department of Education, implements changes to the Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid in the United States to publicly report crime information. The Act was created following the 1987 rape and murder of 19-year-old Jeanne Clery in her Lehigh University dorm room; her family noted the lack of laws requiring schools be transparent about the frequency and types of crimes committed at universities. The Act went into effect in 1991.

In March of last year, Congress passed the Campus SAVE Act as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Campus SAVE amended the Clery Act to strengthen the requirement that schools report on the level of crime on or near campus by broadening the range of reportable crimes to include domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. It also requires schools to create proactive campus sexual assault prevention programs and to improve the institutional response to allegations of sexual assault by creating standards for disciplinary proceedings dealing with sexual assault and providing information on victims' rights.

"With one in five women sexually assaulted in college, it's clear that we have a major problem that needs to be addressed," said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who called the new rule, "a major step forward in the effort to curb the outrageously high rate of sexual assaults on college campuses." Maloney introduced and spearheaded the Campus SAVE Act in the US House. She continued, "Schools will now be required to describe in detail the prevalence of sexual assault among their student populations. Schools will be required to declare what programs are in place to prevent and address dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The rules will strengthen protections for survivors of sexual assault."

The Department of Education's new rule will now require schools to detail each type of disciplinary proceeding used by the institution in cases of alleged dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including the decision-making process, anticipated timelines, and the process by which schools determine which type of disciplinary proceeding to use. Schools must also ensure that the disciplinary proceeding used allows the accuser and the accused the same opportunities to have an advisor of his/her choice present during the proceeding or other related meetings. Survivors had reported that they were often either assigned advisors or were barred from having one.

In addition, the new rule requires colleges and universities to report their statement of policy regarding its prevention programs as well as the procedures the institution follows when a crime of sexual violence is reported. The rule also requires school to collect and release statistics on alleged crimes that were determined to be unfounded, and to include gender identity and national origin as categories of bias that can be used as the basis for a determination of a hate crime

"The Department has the responsibility to ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment," said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These new rules require institutions to ensure that students and employees have vital information about crime on campus and the services and protections available to victims if a crime does occur, which will be significant assets in addressing the growing problems of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on our nation's campuses."

The final rule will go into effect July 1, 2015. VAWA statutory provisions, including those in Campus SAVE, are in effect now.

Media Resources: US Department of Education 10/17/2014; Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney 10/17/14; Federal Register 6/20/2014; Clery Center

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