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New state law addresses sexual assaults on campus

By Alban Murtishi
On May 1, 2014

The White House Task Force to Protect Victims from Sexual Assault has release a bevy of updates to its mission including a lengthy report, a website, and a celebrity laden PSA. Connecticut has responded to the expansion with the passing of legislation that directly correlates to the Task Force.
While the passing of new legislation has state representatives excited, the Task Force has come under fire for its report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
In a response issued by Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, he said, "The White House Task Force has attempted to correct the status quo's failures. Unfortunately, it has missed an opportunity for meaningful and positive reform, instead doubling down on a broken system."
This retort comes after a report issued by the Task Force titled "Not Alone." A PSA featuring the President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Seth Meyers and other prominent figures, was broadcast and urged men to take a stand and protect women from sexual assault. In addition to the PSA, the Task Force has also created a website called NotAlone.gov.
This timing of the Task Force expansions coincides with HB 5029, "An Act Concerning Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence on Campus," a campus sexual assault bill that has recently been passed in Mansfield. The bill passing was announced by Haddad and is related to recommendations made by the Task Force. It was unclear Wednesday whether Gov.Dan Malloy would sign the bill.
Among some of the changes in the bill that sync with issues addressed in the report are, "The bill requires that the official conducting the hearing be trained annually regarding issues related to sexual assault and intimate partner violence." The bill specifically details a bystander intervention program, a major point mention in the Task Force PSA. Additionally, the bill allows for anonymous bystander reporting of sexual assault crimes.
FIRE contends that the White House Task Force report fails to address grave concerns regarding reliability, impartiality and fairness of campus judicial proceedings. Specifically criticized in the response was the Task Force's "single investigator" model, which would allow a sole administrator to act as detective, judge, and jury.
"Tellingly, the Task Force expresses only the most meager sense of the rights necessary to secure fundamentally fair hearings, noting that it believes the single investigator model would still 'safeguard an alleged perpetrator's right to notice and to be heard.'" Lukianoff said.
While the response from FIRE does not directly reference HB 5029, the bills is related to the Task Force report, which may lead to further debate.
"FIRE is under no illusion that there is a simple solution to the problem of sexual assault on campus," Lukianoff said, "But by lowering the bar for finding guilt, expanding the definition of harassment beyond recognition, eliminating precious due process protections, and entrusting unqualified campus employees to safeguard the vitally important interests of all involved."
 


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