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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Senators unveil bill to improve universities’ sexual assault response

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday that would strengthen campus sexual assault policies by imposing heavy fines on schools that fall short of federal standards.

The bill, spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., comes several weeks after McCaskill released a report that showed more than 40 percent of schools had not conducted a sexual assault investigation in the last five years. Other senators who backed the bill included Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Colleges could face fines of up to 1 percent of their operating budgets if they don’t follow the bill’s requirements, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, potentially costing them millions of dollars.

Universities can now lose federal funding for mishandling sexual assault cases, a threat that lawmakers say is impractical, the New York Times reported. For private institutions like GW, that consequence might impact funding streams like federal research grants and low-income government-backed loans.

The proposed bill would quadruple the penalty for violating the Clery Act, which requires schools to report details of all crimes to the Department of Education. Penalties could cost institutions up to $150,000, according to estimates. More than 60 schools are currently under investigation for their response to sexual assault on campus. GW is not on that list.

The government would also mandate anonymous surveys about sexual assault, and universities would have to release results online, the Times reported. GW conducted its first anonymous survey about harassment, stalking and dating violence last spring, but has not made any findings public.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed, who oversees the University’s compliance with the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX, did not return a request for comment.

Schools would also be required to offer confidential advisers to support victims and help them if they choose to report their crimes, a resource GW already provides. If the legislation passes, institutions could not punish students for underage drinking if they are reporting a sexual assault.

Aides say the bill could face a tough battle in Congress and take up to two years to pass because of its complexity.

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