Assembly committee considers campus sexual assault bills

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano spoke about a bill to expand the work of the New Jersey Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault Monday before the Assembly Higher Education Committee.

A 2017 report from the task force found that one in five undergraduate women will be the victim of sexual violence on college campuses across the United States, typically in their first year of school. Barbara Berreski, interim executive director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the task force’s work is critical.

“Those are really the most effective things because they’re looking at the campuses. They’re saying, ‘what are you doing, what are you finding on your campus that’s effective, what are the best practices nationally and let’s help you implement them,'” said Berreski.

The bill, passed unanimously by the Senate in January, cleared the Assembly committee Monday. But a second bill, which would give the secretary of higher education authority to fine a college or university $10,000 for failing “to appropriately respond to a student’s allegation of sexual assault by another student” was met with opposition.

Berreski, whose organization represents the institutions that would be affected, objected.

“This is punitive. It’s punitive on the institutions. It does nothing to help the students. It does nothing to aid the institutions in responding to these and preventing them,” she said.

Anne Newman, dean of students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said she approved of the intent of the bill — holding schools accountable — but took issue with what she felt was a lack of clarity.

“How are you going to determine what’s an inappropriate response and how will this be handled so that we can see whether or not we can support that? There’s also some other questions regarding, right now it only talks about students — what if faculty or staff are a perpetrator? What’s the process for that? So there’s just a whole lot of details that we’re really hope we see before the bill is passed,” Newman said.

Monday was only a discussion on this bill. They plan to hold it for the possibility of amendments.