Emma Sulkowicz detailing her Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) Campaign. Sulkowicz started the project after she was allegedly raped by a fellow student at Columbia University in 2012 / Wikipedia

Safe Campus Act, Mixed Opinions on College Campuses

A House bill that plans to protect both victims of sexual assault and those accused of sexual assault, the Safe Campus Act, has sparked a variety of reactions on college campuses, including USC.

The act would ban campuses from punishing or investigating a student accused of sexual assault unless the victim reports the attack to the police first.

During a hearing of The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, general counsel for Dickinson College Dana Scaduto expressed colleges’ concerns to provide “fair treatment for all of our students, including not only victims of sexual violence but also those accused of sexual violence.”

Some believe the Safe Campus Act has good intentions for students, while others have criticized it as an approach that will restrict a school’s obligation to investigate students reported of sexual assault.

Those against the act cite data that many sexual assault survivors do not report their experiences to the police. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, with 68 percent still being left unreported.”

Additionally, a sexual assault victim wrote a Change.Org petition to encourage opposition of the bill, saying she regrets reporting her assault to the police and that it is not right to “force survivors of sexual assault to go to the police.”

“If this bill passes, schools will be able to punish students who cheat on a test… but not students who rape, unless the victim goes through a length and difficult criminal process,” wrote Jillian Murray from Carrboro, North Carolina, in the petition.

Some students have expressed approval of the act. According to an article in The Washington Post, many students voted that they would like to see law enforcement more involved in allegations of sexual attacks. Those in favor of the act express concern about whether school officials are capable of determining whether an accused student is actually guilty while still protecting the survivor.

A sponsor of the bill, Republican Matt Salmon of Arizona, made a statement in a Washington Post article in defense of the legislation.

“Protecting our children is our chief concern, and we’re pleased that this legislation helps do that,” Salmon said. “Simply put, our bill would ensure swift and impartial justice to all students. It also protects the due process rights of campus student organizations and encourages institutions to offer access to sexual assault prevention programs, further benefiting at-risk student populations.”

Other students are against the act out of concerns for the victim.

“I think that forcing someone to go to the police is almost reminding the victim of the pain they have gone through,” said Michelle Phillips, a graduate student majoring in social work. “Police aren’t trained on how to work with survivors; the first responder should be a social worker. The school should handle cases of sexual assault.”