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UI policy matches proposed bill

BY TING XUAN TAN | AUGUST 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Some universities feel as if they are on the ball when it comes to sexual-assault policies.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, supported the bipartition legislation Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which will establish campus resources and support services for student survivors to ensure on-campus officials receive at the least the minimum level of training to help in sexual-assault investigations and the disciplinary process.

“This university is doing as much if not more than any university in the country at solving this problem,” said Grant Laverty, the chairman of University of Iowa President Sally Mason’s Student Advisory Committee. “Our administrations, staff, and students show a genuine passion toward this issue.”

Last week, Mason allocated $27,000 annually to support the coordinator of the Johnson County Sexual Assault Response Team, as well as for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program.

The latter includes law enforcement, the Johnson County County Attorney’s Office, as well as local agencies including hospitals.

The new funding was part of Mason’s six-point plan to combat sexual assault, which was introduced earlier this year. The program comprises cracking down on offenders, increasing support for survivors, improving prevention and education, improving communication, adding funding, and listening more and reporting back.

The website with these points has been updated as the university progresses with fulfilling the plan.

Laverty said that the president’s six-point plan “absolutely fits” with this new proposed legislation.

Also, it will create new transparency requirements, with students being surveyed annually about their experience with sexual assault, increase campus accountability and coordination with law enforcement, and establish enforceable Title IX penalties and stiffer penalties for Clery Act violations.

This bill will probably not be voted on until next year; Congress is in recess for the rest of the summer, and the fall session will be short.

Because the six-point plan covers some of what this bill aims to do, the only regulation the university may decide to implement is the annual survey before the bill is passed.

If the university puts the annual survey in place, it will be anonymous and just for data collection.

“It will not be like, ‘I’m going to come to your room and talk to you and ask you to tell me all about your sexual-assault experience and tell me your name’ and then have it published,” said Karen Siler, the assistant director for operations at the Rape Victims Advocacy Program. “It will be more to get aggregate data rather than to call people out and do interviews."

University of Northern Iowa officials believe that they have been ahead of the game with sexual-assault regulations.

UNI will have a new online program to educate employees this coming fall, in addition to the bystander-intervention programs and student training programs that it has in place.

Over the summer, the school has combined itsstudent- and employee-misconduct policy under discrimination harassment and sexual misconduct.

“We’ve been doing grant work with the Department of Justice for years,” said Leslie Williams, the dean of students for the UNI Department of Student Affairs. “We’re pretty much already in line. There may be one or two tweaks that we have to do, but we’re pretty right on top of what we need to do.”


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