NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — UConn announced yesterday that the school failed to comply with federal rules about campus crime and sex assaults. Today, female legislators are saying they will push to tighten rules for colleges and universities in the upcoming session.
Women of the General Assembly are proposing a bill that would help victims of sexual assaults on college campuses. “We need to ensure that our colleges provide a supportive response when an assault occurs,” said State Representative Roberta Willis.
“This affects these women for the rest of their lives, so we need to make sure they get the response they need right away,” said Sen. Beth Bye.
The act concerning sexual assault on campus would allow for anonymous reporting of sexual misconduct and provide written information about available services to victims. Schools would also need to establish Sexual Assault Response Teams and that would have to report their progress to the General Assembly.
Much of this is already required under federal guidelines, but not every college complies. Just yesterday, UConn’s police Chief admitted that an independent review found dozens of things the university did wrong.
UConn does not know if or how much it will be fined by the Department of Education. The department has fined other schools for similar issues. For example, Yale had to pay $165,000 fine last year for not reporting sexual assaults on campus.
“It wasn’t always done in a uniform way on our college campuses. It needs to be taken seriously. The students need a great deal of support,” said Sen. Toni Boucher.
It is important to report sexual violence, given that many perpetrators are repeat offenders.
“And these are the offenders who are counting on their victims to be silent and for people to look the other way, blame the victim should she come forward,” said Laura Cordes of the CT Sexual Assault Crisis Services.
Elizabeth Conklin, Title IX Coordinator at the University of Connecticut, made a statement on the proposed legislation.
“The bill introduced today speaks to the determination of our legislators to address the issue of sexual violence on all college campuses in the state. That is, without question, a commitment that we at UConn share. Sexual assault needs to be confronted directly as we collectively work to prevent this crime from taking place and to provide victims with the resources they need. Our primary goal as a university is to provide a safe and caring environment for our students, faculty, and staff. There is no greater priority. UConn’s commitment to sexual violence prevention, education, and response is demonstrated through our extensive array of services, programs, and resources already in place at the university, as well as our pledge to constantly reevaluate our efforts to ensure we are doing all we can. Our zero tolerance policy toward sexual violence of any kind emphasizes that pledge. In fact, some of the measures proposed in the bill track very well with established practices at UConn and others we continue to develop, including extensive training related to sexual assault and harassment and aiding victims. We look forward to reviewing the proposals in this draft legislation further and to partnering with our elected leaders to build upon these efforts on campus.”