The Campus Accountability and Safety Act, commonly known as CASA is a bill presented in congress that aims to accomplish a number of things. Specifically, according to the preamble of the bill, the purpose of CASA is “to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to combat campus sexual violence, and for other purposes. This incredibly vague inclusion to the purpose of the bill has come under scrutiny and raises the question of what the true motives of the bill actually are.
The bill starts by amending the Clery Act of 1965 to require colleges to report a number of sexual assault statistics on their website. Also included in this section is a survey that colleges and universities are supposed to give to their student body to more accurately gauge how sexual assaults are happening on campus. The next section of the bill is titled “Coordination with Local Law Enforcement” It goes into detail about a variety of penalties and fines that will be handed out by the Department of Education if schools are found to not be in compliance with CASA. It also details the role that the Secretary of Education has in determining the validity of the infractions. The next section of the bill outlines what systems and programs colleges and universities have to implement for survivors of sexual assault. It goes into detail about the roles of “responsible employees” and what legal options survivors have available to them.
There are a number of clauses and lines within the CASA bill that do not help and may even hurt the war against campus sexual assault. Starting with the very first page, the preamble of the Bill gets kind of shady in its intentions by the inclusion of “and for other purposes.” Considering that this Bill is an amendment for another campus sexual assault legislative piece, I find it hard to believe that this Bill would have many other purposes. If it did, as a voting citizen, I would like for them to be outlined more explicitly for me. In fact, I think a greater level of transparency in all parts of the Bill would be a massive step up from the vague policies and language used in the Bill as it stands now.
For example, in Section 2 the amendment requires that colleges and universities include sexual assault statistics “on the website of the institution”. Not only does it not specify where on a website these statistics have to be (i.e. how easy they are to find), but the statistics that institutions are required to show are not very thorough. For example, there is no requirement for a statistic that shows what percentage of cases had repeat perpetrators. Another issue I found within Section 2 of CASA is the outdated and inconsistent language that is present in the bill. This bill is making amendments to a law passed in 1965 and uses definitions from a separate Act passed in 1994. Especially since the rise of the internet and social media, definitions of sexual violence, dating violence, stalking, consent, rape, and coercion have been rapidly changing. It is not productive to reference definitions from essentially three different generations in a bill that requires solid definitions.
In Section 3 of CASA, a number of penalties and fines are described for institutions that do not adhere to the new Bill. One noticeable flaw within the logic of this section is the power given to the Secretary of Education. While I personally do not know much about our current leadership in the Department of Education, it appears that they could potentially waive the penalties for favored institutions, even if a conflict of interest may be present. Section 4 of CASA attempts to provide ways a number of avenues for students to report their assaults. However, the confusing terminology and the fact that “the confidential advisor shall inform the victim of the victim’s control over possible next steps regarding the victim’s reporting options” may do more harm than good. As we all most likely saw in the Rolling Stone article, presenting a survivor with an overwhelming amount of options without any real guidance does not really do anything for the survivor.
How do you think CASA should be changed? Do you think Congress has the right ideas with this bill?