New York City Public Advocate Letitia James proposed new legislation on Monday to address sexual assault on college campuses.
The NYC Campus Safety Act would require private and public colleges in the city to report sex crime statistics every month and coordinate their responses to on-campus sexual assaults with local rape crisis centers.
The legislation, which has already been endorsed by a coalition of elected officials, women's advocacy groups, and student activists, would also establish a new NYPD liaison and multiagency task force to work with colleges on sexual assault prevention programs and increase funding for rape crisis centers citywide.
If passed by the City Council, the bill's most significant impact on Columbia's sexual assault policies would likely be in regards to the monthly reports on sex crime statistics.
Currently, the University releases the number of forcible and nonforcible sexual offenses on campus only once a year as part of Public Safety's Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which is all that's required by the Clery Act. James' legislation would thus require Columbia to release those numbers on a monthly basis.
While the NYC Campus Safety Act would increase the frequency of sex crime statistics reporting, it would not impact the level of detail regarding sexual assault cases currently released by Columbia, which has been a point of contention for students since the fall.
In October, the Columbia University Democrats circulated a petition calling for the University to release anonymous aggregate data about the adjudication of cases of sexual assault, rape, and gender-based misconduct on campus. The petition drew well over 1,000 signatures by the end of the semester, and in January, University President Lee Bollinger agreed to release sexual assault data by the end of the academic year.
While that data still has not been released—the President's Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault has met several times to discuss the best way to release the data in a way that protects the privacy of students—activism from CU Dems, No Red Tape Columbia, and the Title IX Team has pushed the University to some action—launching a website to clarify adjudication information and holding two town halls.
Still, students have said that the University isn't doing enough. Just last month, 23 students filed a federal complaint against Columbia, alleging violations of Title IX, Title II, and the Clery Act.
“There's a consensus emerging that universities aren't doing enough,” Sejal Singh, CC '15 and Columbia College Student Council vice president-elect for policy, said in April. “This is a nationwide problem.”
James' proposed legislation comes on the heels of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault's list of expectations for reforming sexual assault policies on campuses nationwide. The White House report detailed many of the flaws with current prevention and adjudication policies, which James hopes this proposed legislation will address.
“These proposals represent real steps that will educate students about sexual assault, hold colleges accountable, increase support for victims, and better protect our students from sexual assault,” James said in a press release.
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