- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tackling the problem of sexual assaults on the nation’s campuses should begin with training for students on the first day of school, the president of the University of California told a Senate committee Wednesday.

Senators are working on legislation that’s designed to provide new resources for college students who are sex crime victims, and places new reporting requirements on universities and colleges. For example, under the bill, schools would be required to provide confidential advisers that victims of sex crimes can turn to for help. Another provision requires institutions to enter into agreements with local law enforcement agencies that outline responsibilities regarding sexual assault cases.

UC President Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that she believes the state’s 10 UC campuses are already in voluntary compliance with the key elements that senators have included in the bill. For example, Napolitano says the UC system has established an office at each campus that victims can turn to for help.

Senators asked Napolitano how best to foster a culture of sexual assault prevention.

“It begins with creating that culture from the day they begin on campus and then consistency and persistency throughout the college experience,” Napolitano said.

More than 400,000 faculty members and students will receive training this fall about preventing and reporting sex crimes, Napolitano said. Officials are also creating a website that students can consult for information about resources available at their school.

Supporters of the bill, which has 21 Democratic co-sponsors and 12 Republican co-sponsors, hope to include it as part of a broader education bill reauthorizing federal financial aid programs.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the committee’s Republican chairman, said he is working with the senators, but also emphasized in his written statement that any bill will have to establish procedures that protect the legal rights of both the accused and the accuser. He also said a reauthorization bill should eliminate duplicative regulations so that university employees spend less time filling out paperwork and more time helping students and fostering a safe campus environment.

Alexander has said he would like to have the broader reauthorization bill ready for the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions to consider in the fall. Alexander, a former college president, said that maintaining a safe environment is the number one priority for every college administrator.

However, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said that many schools don’t take sexual assault seriously enough. She said an estimated two-thirds of students found responsible for a sexual assault are still on campus.

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