Officials at Oklahoma’s two largest universities declined to comment this week on a federal bill aimed at curbing sexual assaults on college campuses.
Eight U.S. senators introduced legislation Wednesday that would require colleges to assign confidential advisers for victims of assault and make public the results of anonymous surveys about their experiences.
“The price of a college education should not be that one in five women will be sexually assaulted,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said at a news conference announcing the Campus Safety and Accountability Act. Gillibrand said it is “a bipartisan bill that finally forces colleges and universities across the country to face this problem head on, aggressively, with the goal of making our schools safer.”
Other senators supporting the bill are Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University issued statements indicating administrators were reviewing the legislation and were not prepared to discuss it at this time.
“Based on our initial review of the proposed legislation, OSU already complies with many of the suggested steps. For instance, we have appointed an expert to the new position of victim’s advocate, OSU is already planning a campus climate survey for students in spring 2015, and OSU already has a single uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings.
“We also have strengthened efforts to ensure students are completing federally mandated training on sexual violence prevention. OSU is committed to a safe environment for students and others on our campuses,” OSU said.
OU’s statement included: “The University of Oklahoma takes gender-based discrimination and sexual misconduct very seriously and continues to monitor and respond to updates concerning best practices in this area. OU offers a number of resources to potential victims, including counseling, sexual assault response team advocates who can assist in advising potential victims of all available avenues of recourse and assistance, police assistance through OUPD, and administrative investigations through the Institutional Equity and Title IX Office. ... The university provides both online and in-person training regarding potential policy violations as well as prevention training.”
The Campus Safety and Accountability Act came weeks after a Senate subcommittee survey revealed 41 percent of 236 American colleges had conducted no investigation of alleged assaults in the past five years.
A task force formed by the administration in January to address the issue found that 1 in 5 female college students in the United States has been assaulted, although the majority of victims fail to report it to authorities.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating 55 colleges and universities that may have violated federal law in their flawed handling of accusations of assault.
Under the proposed rules, if schools fail to comply they could face penalties affecting 1 percent of their total operating budgets and a $150,000 fine per violation.