UPDATE: The North-American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference withdrew their support of the Safe Campus Act on Friday. Both groups said in statements that they will continue to support the Fair Campus Act, which includes many of the same provisions, but would not require students to report an assault to police before allowing a campus investigation.
"After listening to our member fraternities and partners, the NIC is withdrawing its support of the Safe Campus Act," the NIC stated. "The ultimate goal of campus reform is to provide a safer environment for students to further their education."
Five college safety and student affairs groups on Friday stressed yet again that they oppose the Safe Campus Act, a bill that would limit how colleges can respond to cases of campus sexual assault.
The proposed legislation would bar colleges from investigating incidents of sexual assault unless the alleged victim reported the crime to law enforcement. It would also require colleges to allow both the accusers and the accused to have access to lawyers during the investigation and hearing process, and allow institutions to choose what standard of proof they use for deciding responsibility in cases of sexual misconduct.
When the bill was introduced in Congress in July (along with a related bill called the Fair Campus Act), civil liberties organizations, fraternity and sorority groups, and the lobbying group representing them -- a frequent financial contributor to one of the bill's sponsors -- applauded the Safe Campus Act as providing an avenue for “much-needed reforms.” But campus safety groups and victims’ advocates immediately decried the legislation as redundant and harmful. The list of groups opposed to the bills has grown to more than 200 organizations.
During a panel discussion at an event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Clery Act on Friday, representatives from the American Association of University Women, the Association for Student Conduct Administrators, the Clery Center for Security on Campus, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education spoke out against the proposed legislation. "Everyone on this stage is an agreement that the Safe Campus Act and the Fair Campus Act are not about making campuses safe or fair," Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center, said.
William Taylor, president of IACLEA and chief of police at San Jacinto College, added that he believes requiring students to report sexual assault to law enforcement "puts police in an adversarial role" that would have a chilling effect on victims coming forward when they have been assaulted.
Though the bills have been backed by the North-American Interfraternity Conference, the National Panhellenic Conference and the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee -- which has spent more than $200,000 on lobbying efforts -- some fraternities and sororities spoke out against the legislation. Last month, Lambda Chi Alpha, a founding member of the IFC, left the organization, blaming the split, in part, on its disagreement with the IFC's lobbying efforts. At least seven national sororities -- Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Phi, Delta Phi Epsilon, Gamma Phi Beta, Phi Mu and Sigma Delta Tau -- have now released statements stating their opposition to the proposed legislation.
"Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority rejects the proposed Safe Campus Act and Fair Campus Act," Delta Phi Epsilon said in a letter to the National Panhellenic Conference Friday. "The bills eliminate the process by which sexual assault survivors on college campuses may seek relief, support, advocacy and help from their campuses."
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