“Senators Push For More Staff At Agency To Investigate Sexual Abuse At Colleges” by Tyler Kingkade

Sexual assaults are increasingly prevalent on college campuses. Tyler Kingkade discusses how two US senators agree increased funding towards investigations is nessesary. This is an excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article. The source of this excerpt is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/04/agency-sexual-assault-investigations-mccaskill-gillibrand_n_5092748.html

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have put aside their differences on military sexual assault reform to turn their attention to the issue of rape on college campuses. In a letter sent Friday, the pair requested an increase in funding at the U.S. Department of Education to improve enforcement of campus crime laws.

The letter — sent to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), ranking member of the committee — calls for more than $100 million for the department to increase staffing that enforces the gender equity law Title IX and the Clery Act, a campus security law. Both laws mandate how colleges and universities that receive federal funding — which is to say, nearly all of them — must respond to sexual violence on campus.

image courtesy of The Huffington Post

image courtesy of The Huffington Post

“When our young people go on to higher education, it should be an opportunity to learn, grow, pursue their dreams and prepare for their future careers,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “But for one in five young women on campuses across America, the college experience becomes their worst nightmare, as victims of sexual assault. America’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. But it is simply unacceptable that they become havens for rape and sexual assault. It is time to take this crisis head on and end the scourge of sexual assault on our college campuses, hold offenders accountable, and keep our students safe.”

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, responsible for Title IX enforcement, currently has half the staff it did in 1980, when it received one-third the volume of complaints it’s receiving today, according to McCaskill’s office. There is no staff position currently dedicated to investigating sexual violence complaints.

OCR officials disclosed to The Huffington Post that, in FY 2013 and 2014 to date, it has received more complaints against colleges relating to sexual violence responses than it has in the previous four fiscal years combined.

OCR officials also noted that complaints related specifically to sexual violence violations represent a significant minority of the 10,000 Title IX complaints they receive annually. Nevertheless, the office has increased the number of investigations into such complaints since 2011, and especially over the past year. As of late February, OCR had 41 pending Title IX investigations specifically involving allegations of sexual violence, and several new investigations have opened in the last month.

The Clery Compliance Team at the Education Department currently has fewer than a dozen staff members, the senators’ offices said, and lack of staff has prevented it from investigating the 63 percent of schools that reportedly failed to report crime statistics in the manner required by the Clery Act. The staffing for Clery compliance is particularly notable given that the latest reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act expands the types of crimes that colleges are required to report, and recently concluded rule-making negotiations with the Education Department have resulted in several significant changes to the adjudication of sexual assault cases.

This is a significantly shortened excerpt. To read the full article, please visit The Huffington Post website http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/04/agency-sexual-assault-investigations-mccaskill-gillibrand_n_5092748.html

Tyler Kingkade is an Associate Editor at The Huffington Post, based in New York. Prior to this role he covered politics for The Huffington Post and The Iowa Independent, and worked at the National Journal and for the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa. He was editor-in-chief of Ethos magazine at Iowa State University and also attended The Fund for American Studies at Georgetown University. His work has earned him national recognition by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press, and the University of Georgia.