After talking with campuses, survivors, law enforcement and advocates, Senator Claire McCaskill announced changes and improvements that are being made to the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
On Monday, March 9, McCaskill held a press conference in order to discuss the provisions being made to the act.
The changes add new campus resources and support services for student survivors, requirements for fairness in the campus disciplinary process, an assurance of minimum training standards for on-campus personnel, new transparency requirements, campus accountability and an obligation to coordinate with law enforcement, enforceable Title IX penalties and stiffer penalties for Clery Act violations.
One of the biggest changes this proposed legislation received was the reduction in the number of climate surveys that colleges and universities had to have.
“In our original legislation we were requiring a climate survey every year,” McCaskill said. “The consensus was really made after talking to campuses and people involved that every two years would be sufficient and in some ways more reliable.”
The climate surveys allow students to anonymously report on how safe they feel, whether or not they are aware of what’s in place for victims and how they feel about the safety of their campus. The bill’s proposal to change how often the surveys are conducted came about because it would be too expensive for smaller schools to conduct a survey every year. With the surveys being done once every two years, an average student would still have at least two chances to participate in their college career.
Another big change being made to the bill is that the fines collected for Clery Act violations are being reassigned into special grants. These grants can be used to help colleges to put more and better programs in place to help victims and to prevent future sexual assaults.
The new bill also reduces the fine amount that a university would be charged for a Title IX violation. McCaskill explained that the current punishment in place is basically unusable.
“Currently the only fine that’s available for a violation of Title IX is to lose all of the Federal Funding,” McCaskill said. “As I’ve said before that’s a little bit like me telling my kids that ‘if they do this again I’ll never speak to them,’ that’s a threat I’m never going to make good on. ”
The bill will change this fine to a maximum of one percent lost for a violation. McCaskill believes that this punishment is much more enforceable, and will yield better results.
Last October McCaskill visited numerous college campuses, including Missouri Western, in order to collect data and discuss the issue of sexual assault.
McCaskill also conducted a nationwide survey in order to see how sexual assaults are handled on college campuses. The survey found that more than 40 percent of schools have not conducted a single investigation in five years, 21 percent of schools provide no training to faculty and staff, and 31 percent provide no training for students.
While the Campus Accountability and Safety Act was just reintroduced last month, it is a bipartisan bill with 50 percent support from Democrats and Republicans and is expected to pass.