Campus Sexual Assault Bill Gets a Public Hearing
Lawmakers will hear public testimony Tuesday on proposed legislation to improve how Connecticut’s colleges and universities respond to sexual assaults on their campuses.
The legislature’s Higher Education Committee will hold the hearing on the bill in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building Tuesday. Members of the public can sign up to testify beginning at 9:30 a.m.
A group of female lawmakers announced the legislation on Jan. 30 in response to a complaint filed last year by seven current and former University of Connecticut students who claimed the school violated their rights by showing “deliberate indifference” when they reported being raped or sexually harassed.
The bill includes a number of new reporting requirements for Connecticut’s public and private colleges and universities, including an annual update to lawmakers regarding how they handled sexual assault incidents that occurred on or around their campuses. Schools also will need to provide victims with clear written information on their rights and options at the time they report an assault.
The legislation requires schools to maintain trained Sexual Assault Response Teams as well as formal agreements with community sexual assault crisis centers to ensure that victims have the option of accessing supportive services off-campus. Colleges and universities would also be required to allow victims to anonymously report their attack.
Rep. Roberta Willis, co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, has said the bill is her committee’s top priority for this year’s legislative session.
“This time our focus is going to be on response,” she said in January. “We need to ensure that our colleges provide a supportive response when an assault occurs.”
Elizabeth Conklin, UConn’s Title IX Coordinator, said some of the proposals in the bill “track very well with established practices at UConn and others we continue to develop.”
Last week, the UConn’s President Susan Herbst also announced a set of new policies which includes designating a specific office within university for crime victims to access services and processes available to them. In a Friday letter to the UConn community, Herbst stressed the office should not be used as an alternative to calling 911 in an emergency or to report a crime.
The proposals are part of a report from a task force on “Civility and Campus Culture.”
“Our policies, procedures, services, and resources must be reviewed and reimagined on an ongoing basis. This will ensure we are employing the best strategies to combat sexual violence and provide victims with the help they need,” Herbst said in a letter Friday.