By Bob Katzen
The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor a bill that would require public and private institutions of higher education in the state to conduct high-quality campus sexual misconduct climate surveys at least once every four years and annually report survey results on its website.
Provisions include requiring colleges and universities to adopt policies on sexual misconduct involving students and employees and publish the policies on their website; requiring these schools to adopt memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement agencies to establish respective roles and responsibilities for each party related to the prevention and response to on-campus and off-campus sexual misconduct; requiring schools to provide campus safety and sexual misconduct data and outreach information in an accessible format on its website and contact information for resources available to reporting students and employees; and requiring all colleges and universities to provide free access to a sexual assault crisis service center either on-campus or off-campus by entering into and maintaining a memorandum of understanding with a community-based sexual assault crisis center and a community-based domestic violence program.
Sens. Michael Moore (D-Millbury) and Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and Reps. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) and Patricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) all sponsored earlier versions of the bill and also supported the new version of the bill that was sent to the governor.
“By providing a framework to handle alleged instances of sexual assault, this legislation will make sure that alleged instances of such are properly handled at higher education institutions,” said Moore. “Furthermore, this bill makes sure the voices of victims are heard and will bring justice to those who engage in sexual misconduct.”
“We must create a culture and a system that supports the community members of higher educational institutions which report acts of sexual violence and thoroughly investigates those reports,” said Hinds. “I plan to work alongside the Legislature to enact a strong set of standards that college communities can rely on.”
“Rape culture is alive and well on our campuses,” said Bouvier. “Twenty percent, or one in five, [of] young women are sexually assaulted at college, the great majority between Labor Day and Thanksgiving of their freshman or sophomore year. This bill, led by young people themselves, will go a long way in changing the culture, preventing sexual assault, and bringing justice for those impacted.”
“Passage of this bill sends a powerful message from Massachusetts leaders that while you attend one of our state’s world class campuses, we care about your safety,” said Ehrlich. “With 90 percent of sexual assaults not reported, the data out is only as good as the data in. By going directly to students, or even professors and staff, and asking them about their lived experience, this bill provides a powerful tool for college administrators who are responsible for student safety.”