Lawmakers Propose Measures to Unify Colleges’ Responses to Sexual Assault

Due to inconsistent policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses across the state of California, lawmakers are considering a set of proposals that would better address the issue.

Proposals include requiring schools to disclose more information about disciplinary action taken against student offenders and requiring all public colleges and universities to note on transcripts when a student is ineligible to re-enroll because of suspension or expulsion. Two additional proposals would expand the authority of community colleges in their handling of sexual assault cases, allowing them to suspend or expel students for offenses that occur off campus.

Author of several of the bills Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, says he saw a need for more consistent discipline to deter assailants and to encourage more victims to report incidents.

“The state of California has an obligation to provide a safe and secure learning environment at our colleges and universities,” Williams said in a statement. “We need to take proper steps to ensure they are safe places, because they are not safe right now.”

Federal law mandates that schools take immediate steps to address sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence on campus. Currently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating more than 100 universities for allegedly failing to properly handle sexual assault concerns and claims.

One of Williams’ proposals would require that schools develop consistent standards for handling sexual assault offenses and annually report outcomes of disciplinary hearings.

While schools are currently obligated to report the number of sexual assault complaints they receive — along with dates, times, and locations of offenses — Williams wants to hold schools even more accountable. His proposals would require universities to disclose the number of complaints investigated, the number of investigations that led to findings of responsibility, and the type of disciplinary action taken. This information would then be made public on an institution’s website every year.

Should his proposals pass, they would apply to all colleges and universities, public and private, that receive state funds for student financial aid in the state of California.


*This story was reworked from a Los Angeles Times article posted online on July 27, 2015.