- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Senators introduced a bill Wednesday that quadruples fines for colleges and universities that fail to accurately report sexual assaults to the government, hiking them from $35,000 to $150,000.

A bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which also requires colleges and universities to regularly release assault statistics and to provide better services for victims.

“We are done asking students why they drank too much, or wore the wrong thing, or went to the wrong place or hung out with the wrong guy,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat. “Those days are done.”

As many as 20 percent of college students will experience sexual assault, but a survey released earlier this year by Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said schools are falling short in providing support to victims, investigating cases and reporting data on accusations and investigations to the federal Department of Education under the Clery Act.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said the bill creates a system “where there is no special treatment because someone can dunk a basketball.”

The measure requires schools to assign a confidential adviser to victims, give students a resource to find out about support services and options for reporting, as well as serve as an advocate for the student throughout the reporting process.

It also prohibits athletic programs from leading investigations when an athlete is named in an assault complaint. That’s a common practice at some schools, according to the report from Ms. McCaskill.

Lawmakers said they expect broad, bipartisan support for the measure, which also would create a national survey of current students to create a more accurate picture of how schools handle reports. The findings of this annual survey would be published online so prospective students and their parents can take sexual assault resources into account when picking a university.

“This bill has teeth,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, said. “If schools ignore the Clery guidelines, this bill lays out that there are consequences and that they will pay a stiff price.”

There are eight original sponsors of the bill — four Republicans and four Democrats. They are: Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican; Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat; Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican; Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, New York Democrat; Ms. McCaskill; Mr. Blumenthal; Ms. Ayotte; and Mr. Rubio.