President Obama this week announced the formation of a White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault, vowing to work with colleges and universities on strategies to keep students safe and help “put those plans into practice.”
According to a White House memorandum, the task force has 90 days to provide the president with recommendations regarding effective policies, prevention and response efforts, federal transparency requirements, and coordination among agencies such as Education, Justice and Health and Human Services, all of which can play roles in campus assault investigations.
Within a year, the task force is to report to the president on implementation efforts.
“It would be important for [the task force] to understand the challenges that are faced in trying to control the student populations and to combat this sexual assault issue,” ACE General Counsel Ada Meloy told Inside Higher Ed. “I would hope that any best practices that they come up with would be workable.”
In recent years, the issue of sexual assault has become an area of increased federal scrutiny, leading to new directives impacting policies at colleges and universities.
Although more than two years have passed since the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued its April 4, 2011, “Dear Colleague” letter on sexual violence, many campuses are still working to comply with the letter’s complex requirements and respond appropriately in what are often difficult situations.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (Campus SaVE) Act, a provision of the recently passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), has only added to the already significant body of regulations and guidance with which institutions must comply. The first of three negotiated rulemaking sessions on VAWA began last week and concludes April 1.