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Witnesses: No “Simple Solution” to Campus Sexual Assault

The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), today held a hearing to discuss an issue of growing national concern: campus sexual assault. Members learned about efforts to address sexual assault, as well as how existing federal and state policies affect the ability of colleges and universities to prevent and respond to these crimes.

“Every college student should be able to learn in an environment that is safe and free from fear and intimidation. Yet for some students, that is not the case,” Chairwoman Foxx said as she highlighted the scope of sexual assault on college campuses. “As a former community college president, a mother, and grandmother, I know I’m not alone when I say that all of us have a responsibility to protect students from sexual assault on campus.”

Witnesses shared Chairwoman Foxx’s sentiments and reaffirmed their commitment to preventing and responding to these crimes.

“The higher education community takes the problem of campus sexual assault very seriously,” Wake Forest Vice President for Campus Life, Dr. Penny Rue, said, “and we are working diligently both to prevent sexual assault and to manage systems that are fair to all students.”

“Prevention and educational efforts are critical to reducing incidents of sexual violence on college campuses,” Rue continued, outlining a number of “Bystander Intervention” and “Social Norms” training and awareness programs that Wake Forest has implemented to combat campus sexual assault.

Dr. Rue cautioned, however, that college and university administrators “must address sexual violence compliance responsibilities under a swirl of regulations that too often … impede our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault.”

Dana Scaduto, General Counsel for Dickinson College, expressed a similar concern, advising members to “consider ways to harmonize the standards, obligations, and expectations of [existing laws] … not just for the benefit of colleges and universities but, more importantly, for the students we serve.”

Scaduto reaffirmed the deep commitment of colleges and universities to “supporting victims and holding perpetrators accountable” while also providing “fair treatment for all of our students, including not only victims of sexual violence but also those accused of sexual violence.”

As Joseph Cohn, Legislative and Policy Director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education stated, “Access to higher education is critical. The stakes are extremely high for everybody in campus disciplinary proceedings, and it is essential that no student’s ability to receive an education is curtailed unjustly.”

Cohn pointed out that “while efforts to address campus sexual assault have focused on eliminating bias against complainants, far too little attention has been paid to preventing bias against the accused.”

“As our nation moves forward in continuing to address the issues of sexual violence,” Scaduto asked, “please keep the door open, as you are today, to hearing from diverse higher education presidents and administrators … so that you can create laws that are flexible and responsive to the needs of various campuses and protect the students we serve.”

With Congress working to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, Chairwoman Foxx concluded, “It must ensure tough, responsible policies are in place to fight these crimes and support the victims … your observations and recommendations are vital to our effort to help colleges and universities provide students the safe learning environment they deserve.”

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit


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