Safe Campus Act Generates Controversy Over Reporting Sexual Assault

The Safe Campus Act of 2015 has received growing media attention in recent months due to its controversial requirements for reporting sexual assault on college campuses. Introduced to Congress on July 29, 2015, the Safe Campus Act would require victims of sexual assault to report their assault to both the university and law enforcement before the administration could conduct an investigation or punish the perpetrator.

Proponents of the bill argue that universities do not have the same investigative or forensic capabilities as law enforcement, nor do they implement the same due process protections as those in the criminal justice system. As a result, supporters of the bill argue that universities are unable to conduct a proper investigation and hearing. Opponents of the act argue that the proposed process would dissuade students from reporting, as they would also need to file a police report to initiate an investigation. Currently, no other crime committed on college campuses is held to this standard.

National fraternity and sorority groups have come out in support of the bill, collecting over $140,000 to lobby for its passage. The National Panhellenic Council (NPC), which represents 26 sororities–including all three on Colgate’s campus–and the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), which currently represents 73 fraternities, have hired former U.S. Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott to lobby for the bill on Capitol Hill. Lott previously served as the Chamber’s majority leader as well as the Senate Majority Whip before retiring in 2007. He is also a Sigma Nu alumnus.

Despite this, not all Greek organizations have come out in support of the NPC and NIC’s actions. Most notably, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity left the NIC on October 27, 2015, citing the NIC’s most recent tactics as counterproductive and conflicting with Lambda Chi’s values and thus the reason for their decision to leave the group.

The bill also emphasizes the importance of sex education and preventative sexual assault programs on college campuses. It encourages universities to host programs that at a minimum provide training for reporting assaults, bystander intervention and how to foster healthy relationships. Colgate already has these programs, such as Yes Means Yes and Bystander Intervention. But advocacy groups working with sexual assault victims universally oppose the Safe Campus Act, largely because of the proposed reporting process.

The Safe Campus Act generates a strong response from students on the Colgate campus.

“In addressing a problem, how can you knowingly exasperate the problem?” senior Annie McNamara said of those who introduced the bill. “That’s almost what’s even more horrifying, because it’s not like they are being upfront, it’s ‘oh this is going to be helpful to the process’ but in actuality it makes it so much worse.”

Additionally, members in the Greek community have mobilized to better understand the bill and the NIC’s and NPC’s stance on the bill.

“Leaders of Greek organizations have been working to gather information as quickly as possible,” senior Camille Stroe said. “This isn’t a bill for Greek life. This is a bill for students on campuses. It’s for institutions and so I really think the institutions should know what’s happening and I would like to know what their stance is.”