Sexual assault and rape is increasingly prevalent on today’s college campuses. A new bill seeks to buck that trend by potentially stopping perpetrators before they even get an opportunity.
The “Safe Transfer Act”, introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties), would require notation on the academic transcript of any student found by a college or university to have violated the school’s policies with regards to sexual violence. The Act would require information about sexual assault charges to stay on a student’s transcript for five years after their disciplinary case settles.
Thus, colleges and universities would know ahead of time if they are admitting—or denying—someone that could be a threat to their students, faculty and staff.
“Universities and colleges are perfectly willing to include academic infractions like plagiarism on students’ records, yet students who have committed sexual assault can walk away from campus with a clean academic bill of health. This is appalling and, whether intentional or not, shows that acts of sexual violence on campus are less serious than cheating,” Rep. Speier said in a statement. “My bill will ensure that students who try to transfer schools to avoid the consequences of their violent acts will, at a minimum, face the same consequences as students who transfer because they’ve cheated on an exam.”
Speier pointed to a terrible 2013 incident that illuminates the need for a bill of this sort.
In 2013, a woman at Vincennes University in Indiana was held for three days while being raped and beaten by fellow student Valdemar Castellano. After being expelled, Castellano went on to attend the University of Northern Ohio in Lima, where in 2014 he was arrested for unwanted sexual contact just months after arriving on campus. In 2015, Castellano enrolled at Rhodes State College in Ohio—with absolutely no notification of his past violent behavior.
Currently, the ambiguity of existing federal privacy laws leaves many colleges and universities with no course of action for information on the criminal acts of incoming transfer students.
The Safe Transfer Act does clarify that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act allows such disclosures, as long as certain rules are followed.
As previously mentioned, the disclosure requirement ends five years after a school’s disciplinary proceeding was completed, or one year after the initiation of such a proceeding if it’s still pending—which prevents a perpetrator from “running away” from possible charges.
The alleged perpetrator must be notified of the disclosure, be allowed to view a copy of the record of the (redacted) disciplinary procedure, and be provided with the opportunity to write a statement to accompany the disclosure.
The Safe Transfer Act has been endorsed by numerous organizations, including the National Organization for Women, End Rape on Campus and the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), who issued a position statement of favor.
“ATIXA reiterates its support for notation of the academic transcript of any student duly found by a college or university to have committed acts of serious sexual misconduct,” the statement reads. “ATIXA does not suggest that students be excluded from admission solely on the basis of notation, but that colleges and universities should be empowered by the tool of transcript notation to make more informed vetting decisions on the eligibility of any candidate for admission. Because transcripts most often pass directly between schools, the transcript offers the best opportunity for information to be shared without a student’s interference and with minimal burden to administrations.”