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By Jackie Filson
The University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government passed a statement of position Wednesday night in opposition to two congressional bills that aim to protect victims of sexual violence and improve the adjudication of sexual violence allegations.
The two bills, known as the “Safe Campus Act” and “Fair Campus Act,” were designed by U.S. congressman Matt Salmon to make campuses safer by more effectively engaging local law enforcements in sexual violence cases.
However, USG Senators Banu Bayraktar and Bennett Cognato found these bills to be problematic.
“The bills would prohibit a college or university from taking any sort of punitive measure against an accused student unless the person reporting the attack agrees to go to law enforcement, regardless of evidence,” they said in their proposed statement of position.
The United States law Title IX says in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex… be subjected to discrimination under any education program.”
The USG statement said under Title IX, sexual violence survivors have the right to choose where to report sexual violence. But under the new congressional bills, not reporting to police would mean the accused could not be punished.
“Some victims need to go to law enforcement while others do not,” said USG Senator Kassandra Pugliese. “Everyone is different and I think it is important to take care of our sexual assault survivors in whatever way they need.”
According to research funded by the Department of Justice, many students do not choose to pursue formal action in response to sexual assault incidents for personal reasons.
The USG statement of position says the two congressional bills, “limit the options available to survivors of sexual assault, and may likely deter survivors from reporting incidents of sexual violence at all.”
The Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act is another proposed congressional bill meant to protect victims of sexual assault. It would require the Department of Education to make publicly available a list of institutions of higher education under investigation.
The USG proposed statement supports this bill over the “Safe Campus Act” and “Fair Campus Act.”
USG Senators Timothy Sullivan and Michael Lanza opposed the statement of position.
Sullivan said he voted in opposition to the proposed statement because he feels the two congressional bills are unconstitutional in the first place.
“Congress has no authority to pass it,” he said. “I don’t believe punitive action should be taken against the accused. This position takes away due process from the accused.”
The statement of position passed with two dissenting votes.