House Hearing Digs Into the Challenges of Campus Sexual Violence

A quad area on a college campus.

“This is a matter of national importance — how can we better protect our students?” asked Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) last week at a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing on efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault on college campuses. The hearing was the latest in a series of discussions on a topic weighing heavily on millions of students this fall as they return to college campuses across America.

Witnesses spoke to the inherent challenges schools face when addressing the difficult topic of campus sexual assault, from ensuring that the rights and needs of both victims and the accused are protected, to ensuring that a tangled web of state and federal mandates are fulfilled.

Dana Scaduto, general counsel at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, spoke to the complexities of addressing campus sexual assault while navigating growing, and sometimes conflicting, state and federal policies. She emphasized the need to support institutions’ good-faith efforts to comply with governmental regulations.

Lisa M. Maatz, vice president for government relations at the American Association of University Women, advocated for strengthening the enforcement of Title IX and the Clery Act, both of which are intended to support safe campus environments.

Dr. Penny Rue, vice president for campus life at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, warned legislators against utilizing a “one-size-fits-all” approach, urging them to allow schools to tailor efforts to their individual communities.

The testimony of Joseph Cohn, legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), centered largely on ensuring that those accused of campus sexual assault are afforded due process rights.

Participants on all sides of this debate were in agreement that the issue of sexual assault on college campuses is one that demands continued attention and systemic reform.

“RAINN supports S. 590/H.R. 130, Campus Accountability and Security Act, and is working closely with lawmakers and allied stakeholders to advance and implement policies to address campus violence,” noted Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN’s vice president for public policy.

Learn more and support efforts to address campus sexual violence policies: visit RAINN's Action Center and sign up for updates.