Federal Negotiators Reach Consensus on Campus Safety Rules

A U.S. Education Department rulemaking panel reached consensus this week on a draft of new campus safety rules that would implement the changes Congress made last year to the Clery Act as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Inside Higher Ed reported. The 15-member committee representing victims' advocates, institutions, law enforcement, and other groups agreed on changes that would require colleges to expand their reporting of campus crimes, publish more robust information about how disciplinary hearings work, and maintain sexual assault prevention programs.

The proposal would add domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking to the types of incidents that colleges must report and include in their annual crime statistics. It would also include national origin and gender identity as two new categories of hate crimes that must be reported.

Several victims' advocates lost a bid to include emotional or psychological abuse in the definition of dating violence along with sexual or physical abuse, reported Inside Higher Ed. Education Department officials said they did not want to develop such an expansive definition.

The draft rules would feature new requirements on how colleges must conduct campus disciplinary proceedings that involve domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Under the proposal, officials facilitating these proceedings at colleges and universities would be required to report the rationale behind outcomes and any sanctions imposed. Students would also have the freedom to choose a lawyer as an adviser during disciplinary proceedings.

In addition, the proposed regulation would require colleges to have ongoing programs and awareness campaigns aimed at preventing dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Those programs would need to be tailored to the culture and needs of a campus and be based on research or assessed for effectiveness.

Congress mandated last year that such proceedings must be resolved in a "prompt, fair and impartial" manner. The draft rules would leave it up to institutions to determine what a reasonable time frame is, but would require institutions to have "good cause" to delay proceedings.

With negotiators achieving consensus on new campus safety rules, the Education Department is now required to push the rulemaking committee's draft through the regulatory process. Gail McLarnon, who represented the department on the panel, said that she expects to put the proposal out for public comment in the coming months and to meet the department's November 1 deadline for publishing the final regulations.


Related Links

Inside Higher Ed


Negotiated Rulemaking 2013-2014: Violence Against Women Act