A state-level policy is being drafted to address how claims of sexual assault are handled on college campuses in Louisiana, and it’s expected to require colleges and universities to institute regular campuswide sexual assault climate surveys.
The policy also will require the state’s four higher education systems — Louisiana Technical and Community College, LSU, Southern University and University of Louisiana — to develop stronger, more specific campus policies.
“Those must comply with all of the requirements of the state-level policy,” Uma Subramanian, deputy higher education commissioner for legal and external affairs, said during a task force meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday.
As it’s being drafted, some parts of the policy proposal could change, but Subramanian said the effort to develop more comprehensive regulations on sexual assault investigations at the state’s colleges and universities is “light years away” from where leaders started in October, when it was revealed that there was no overall policy or guidelines for schools.
“This is a highly coordinated process, but a very collaborative process,” she said.
A committee formed by the state Board of Regents has been working on the draft state-level policy in recent weeks that could be the basis for more concrete legislation that will be proposed in this year’s legislative session.
“We have some great bones for some legislation,” said state Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat who formed the task force to address the issue. “I don’t see how we deal with this situation without legislation in some form.”
Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Ebony Tucker said that it’s common for sexual assault victims to report to campuses, rather than police, because the burden of proof is lower and the legal process can be traumatic.
“At least you don’t have to go to class with the person who sexually assaulted you,” Tucker said some victims decide.
The Board of Regents is using Rutgers University’s sexual assault survey as a model for its own.
Alyson Neel, public policy student and activist, said that researchers consulted said that a Web-based survey wouldn’t be difficult and would cost less than other forms.
Morrell said he’s considering a proposal that would tie the costs of implementing the sexual assault policies, including the survey, to a student fee to create a steady revenue stream.