Local colleges and universities are preparing to implement proposed federal regulations that institute new requirements for reporting sexual assaults and compiling more thorough statistics on stalking, dating violence and domestic violence on campuses.
The proposal from the Obama administration also creates requirements that institutions educate students, faculty and the community near campuses about sexual crimes.
The new regulations, announced Thursday, are designed to “strengthen schools’ capacity to provide safer college campuses for students and to keep everyone better informed about campus security policies and procedures,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a prepared statement.
They would take effect in November.
College campuses have had to comply with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act — known as the Clery Act — since it became law in 1990.
The Clery Act act came in response to the death of Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University, who was raped, beaten and then strangled by another student. Her parents pushed for transparency in the reporting of crime statistics after they learned of security lapses on Lehigh’s campus in Bethlehem, Pa.
The act already requires institutions that receive federal funding to report all campus crimes to students, faculty and nearby residents via a public log and timely notifications. They also must report crime statistics for review to the U.S. Department of Education in an annual security report each Oct. 1.
Victims advocates have said the statistics, as currently compiled, still don’t always paint an accurate picture of the extent of sexual crimes on campuses.
The proposal stems from changes made last year to the Violence Against Women Act.
Schools in Western Pennsylvania have been expecting the new proposed regulations and preparing to implement them in the fall.
“We’ve been trying to act in anticipation of those rules,” said Ken Service, spokesman at University of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Service said Pitt is reworking its student code of conduct and had been watching for the new regulations to be published. Other campuses are doing the same.
Jennifer Carlo, dean of student affairs at Carlow University, said, “We have been aware of this, it has been in the works for a long time, and we have been planning how to implement [the new regulations] on our campus. We are in the process of revising our student handbook this summer, so we will make sure all of our policies are in line. They are not too far off.
“I think the law has caught up with good practice. If there are institutions out there that have not been doing these things, this means that they will have to improve their services,” Ms. Carlo said.
Major provisions of the proposed regulations include requiring schools to maintain statistics on the incidence of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The schools also will have to hold programs for prevention and awareness for incoming students and conduct ongoing awareness programs.
They would be required to report on disciplinary proceedings, the timelines and the decision-making process in allegations of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Institutions would have to provide for “prompt, fair and impartial disciplinary proceedings” before trained officials who have no conflict of interest conduct. The accuser and the accused would have to be able to have others present, the accuser and the accused must receive notification of proceedings in writing, and there must be a “reasonable prompt time frame” for all disciplinary actions.
“At Allegheny College, we do respond to situations in a prompt and fair way,” said Joe DiChristina, dean of students at the Crawford County school. “These are important issues to be attentive to,” he said, adding that it’s Allegheny’s aim to resolve complaints so that “victims of situations can return to their studies.”
The proposal also calls for broadening the definition of rape in the Clery Act so that it more closely complies with the FBI’s definition in the UCR Summary Reporting System, which includes more forms of non-consensual sexual activity.
Under hate-crimes reporting requirements, the changes add categories for gender identity, ethnicity and national origin.
The proposal calls for public comment on the regulations until July 21. The regulations then will be put into effect on Nov. 1.
Golzar Meamar: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1390. Associated Press contributed.