Yesterday legislation was reintroduced in the Senate, titled the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which would mandate sex surveys on college campuses and institute requirements that presumes guilt of any student accused of sexual assault or harassment by automatically bestowing the status of victim to an accuser. The effort is spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), with Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) as the lead GOP co-sponsor.
Bizzarely missing from this legislation is any effort wording in the bill to actually make campuses safer. Additionally, not a single mention of due process protection is included in the language of the CASA bill.
NCFMC created and emailed a briefing sheet to key lawmakers providing 10 reasons to oppose this awful piece of legislation.
10 Reasons to Oppose the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S2692 / HR5354)
The bill purports to be a safety act yet is missing language that identifies high risk safety areas, does not include any provisions for beefing up security or law enforcement and does not incorporate bystander prevention programs that many rape prevention organizations endorse to help reduce sexual assaults and improve campus safety. In essence, the bill does little to make campuses safer environments.
The bill is biased and unfair in its treatment of students by presuming guilt of the accused and automatically bestowing victimhood to the reporting party who is repeatedly referred to as either a victim or survivor even prior to the outcome of any investigation.
The bill should go beyond requiring universities to sign a MOU with local law enforcement. It should direct that all matters involving alleged sexual assault are handled by local law enforcement and schools should be required to defer any investigation or adjudication of allegations of sexual assault until law enforcement has completed their investigation.
If colleges are going to be required to adjudicate sexual assault allegations, then they must provide accused students basic due process rights including but not limited to: the right to have counsel present during the hearing; the right to effectively cross-examine; timely access to written complaints and evidence; timely and adequate notice of actual charges; elimination of gag orders impeding the ability to talk to witnesses and gather evidence; the exclusion of blatantly unreliable hearsay evidence and hearing panels composed of thoroughly trained objective triers of fact. These protections need to be incorporated into this proposed legislation.
The bill should compel universities to provide fair and equal resources to both accuser and accused during the disciplinary hearing processes. Lacking from this bill is language that ensures a presumption of innocence for the accused and adequate due process protection.
The sexual violence reporting requirements contained in this bill use broad language that is both confusing and in conflict with acceptable sexual assault definitions and standards used by the Department of Justice. DOJ standards should be the basis for reporting sexual assaults on campus.
The bill defines any "higher education employee" as a "campus security authority" which we see as problematic. A campus security authority should be one that is well-trained and preferably licensed as a security professional which this bill makes no provision for.
The bill requires an anonymous campus-wide survey that is to be conducted every two years but does not indicate how the survey results will be used to improve campus safety. Once again the language of this bill bestows the status of victim to a survey respondent who indicates an affirmative response to questions concerning being harassed or sexual assaulted without substantiating their claim. The ability to fraudulently manipulate survey results is concerning.
The bill provides confidential advisors to assist the reporting party (who is once again referred to as the victim) yet offers no resource to the accused party who may be falsely accused and in need of the same kind of supportive assistance and health resources. All the rights conferred to the accuser needs to be equally conferred to the accused.
The bill should extend the Amnesty Policy to both accuser and the accused, such that neither party will be sanctioned by the institution for a non-violent student conduct violation, such as underage drinking, that is revealed in the course of such a report.
Click here to see the NCFMC Briefing Fact Sheet.