Sexual Assault on Campus: President Obama Weighs In

January 23, 2014

vt1-300x134With students, faculty and other groups increasingly vocal about institutional responses to campus rape and sexual assault, President Obama has announced the creation of The White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault.  The group will include cabinet level leaders and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Under Title IX, colleges and universities are required to respond promptly to reports of campus rape and sexual assault.  An increasing number of students have filed federal claims of sex discrimination, alleging that their institution had not adequately responded in cases where they have been sexually assaulted.  At the same time, many college administrators have expressed frustration with the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, finding that OCR does not fully understand the realities involved in addressing sexual assault on campuses, particularly when it comes to the student disciplinary process, and that there is confusion regarding exactly what OCR expects of them. The President has charged the Task Force with developing “best practices” for preventing and responding to rape and sexual assaults; to assure compliance with existing federal laws governing colleges; and to make available to the public individual college’s compliance with these laws.  The President also asked the Task Force to improve coordination among federal agencies dealing with this issue, and to increase the transparency of federal enforcement efforts. In announcing the Task Force, the President indicated that the Task Force will look for ways to work collaboratively with colleges to develop these recommendations, though the Task Force will not include any members of the higher education community. The Task Force’s recommendations are to be submitted to the President in 90 days, and a full report on implementing those recommendations is due in one year. Bond will be following closely the work of the Task Force, and will keep clients updated on developments.