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McCaskill challenges fraternity, sorority groups undermining campus sexual assault prevention efforts
McCaskill challenges fraternity, sorority groups undermining campus sexual assault prevention efforts

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 29, 2015) — U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill today challenged national fraternity and sorority associations’ support for legislation that would undermine and weaken the authority of colleges and universities to adjudicate incidents of sexual assault on their campuses.

The national fraternity and sorority groups, including the National Panhellenic Conference and the North American Interfraternity Conference, are organizing in support of a bill that would tie the hands of schools in addressing sexual violence—dramatically weakening their ability to adjudicate allegations of sexual assault on their campuses—while leaving other crimes such as theft and physical assault fully in schools’ control and purview.

“You don’t protect students from sexual violence by tying the hands of school administrators—and you don’t achieve safety and security for survivors by making the process contingent on a criminal justice investigation that many victims choose not to pursue, and which could take years to resolve,” said McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor. “The legislation these folks are supporting backfires in every way imaginable against what fraternities and sororities claim to want. And I’m hopeful they’ll start working with us on a real solution: our bipartisan bill that will protect and empower students, while holding schools accountable.”

“We recently read with interest that your organization has hired of a team of lobbyists, including former Senator Trent Lott, to lobby on your behalf for Representative Salmon’s legislation that would undermine our efforts to make campuses safer,” McCaskill wrote along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “We are deeply concerned that this legislation will not keep campuses safe and may actually further exacerbate the issue of sexual assault facing our students. We are disappointed to hear that your organization is working in support of it.”

This legislation, which is opposed by every major victims’ advocacy group, would require victims of sexual assault to report the offense to criminal authorities and wait for the criminal investigation to be completed for the campus disciplinary process to begin. Criminal investigations can take months or years, if they proceed at all, and as many victims do not feel comfortable going to the police, the bill would force them to go through the criminal justice process against their will before the campus can take action.

McCaskill’s letter continues: “Throughout our many visits to campuses throughout the country we have met with Fraternity and Sorority members to discuss the issues surrounding campus sexual assault.  In those discussions we were left with the impression that campus organizations were interested in solving this problem in a way that encourages reporting, supports victims and holds schools accountable for failure to act to protect students. Representative Salmon’s bill addresses none of those priorities.  The bill would instead stifle reporting and force victims down a one size fits all pipeline against their wishes.”

The legislation to undermine campus sexual assault efforts, which has thus far lacked the support for introduction in the Senate, imposes this unique standard of reporting to the police upon victims of sexual assault victims alone—while continuing to allow victims of physical assault or robbery able to access the campus administrative process without a police report.

McCaskill also penned letters to three fraternities with chapters in Missouri—Kappa Alpha Order, Alpha Tau Omega, and Sigma Nu—whose national organizations, in addition to their membership in the national fraternity and sorority associations organizing in support of the undermining campus sexual assault legislation—have also retained their own lobbyists, including former Senator Trent Lott, to push for the legislation. 

McCaskill and Gillibrand have led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in advancing the Campus Accountability and Safety Actlegislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses by protecting and empowering students, strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions, and holding perpetrators accountable. The legislation—cosponsored by Republican Senators Dean Heller of Nevada, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Marco Rubio of Florida, and fellow Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, among others—is informed by feedback McCaskill heard when she traveled across Missouri last fall, visiting 10 different campuses and speaking with representatives from nearly 50 colleges and universitiesand by an unprecedented national survey McCaskill conducted of colleges and universities.

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