By Padmini Parthasarathy
Our do-nothing Congress seems to have finally done something. After holding public hearings and doing extensive research on the topic of sexual assault at American colleges, Congresswoman Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has rallied her allies and reached across the aisle to introduce the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
What's especially important, the bill threatens to pull a big lever--money--to make colleges do the right thing.
Here’s what’s in it:
1. Colleges will be required to conduct anonymous surveys of students about sexual assault on their campuses. The results of these surveys would then be published for prospective students to see and consider when making their decisions.
2. The bill will require colleges to appoint a confidential adviser to coordinate support services and accommodations for the survivor.
3. The bill creates uniform procedures for investigating sexual assault.
4. Colleges would lose up to 1% of their federal funding (which amounts to millions for some schools) for mishandling sexual assault cases, violating Title IX, or violating the new provisions of this bill.
5. The bill increases the maximum fine of violating the Clery Act, which requires colleges to accurately report crime on or near their campuses to the Department of Education, from $35,000 to $150,000 per violation.
Losing Funding or Getting Fined
The fourth and fifth provisions are the teeth of the bill. If a college violates Title IX—which criminalizes discrimination based on sex at any institution given federal funding—they are subject to losing all their federal funding. However, this is an extreme measure that has never been implemented. The 1 percent fine is a realistic punishment that might very well be used.
The bill comes on the heels of a Department of Education list that disclosed the names of 55 colleges and universities under investigation for potential Title IX violations.
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