Campus SaVE’s stipulations go beyond what was outlined in similar federal guidelines issued by the Department of Education in 2011: Rather than recommending that colleges develop educational programming, the law explicitly requires all schools to offer “primary prevention and awareness programs” that reduce the risk of sexual assault. The idea is that all students and faculty members should be held accountable for the elimination of sexual violence on campus. In these programs, participants learn what’s defined as consent, for example, and how to recognize signs of abusive behavior. It also stipulates some minimum standards in campus judicial proceedings (for both the defendant and the accused) and mandates that institutions specify the number of dating- and sexual-violence claims filed in their annual crime reports.
“[The act] highlights dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. These are crimes that we know are happening on our college and university campuses. So it requires colleges to actually have specific policies, protocols, and responses,” Allison Kiss, the executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, told me.
What’s particularly novel about Campus SaVE’s education requirements—and what many groups, including The White House’s It’s On Us campaign, tout as the key strategy—is its inclusion of bystander-intervention, the model that emphasizes the responsibility of those standing witness to potentially problematic situations to interrupt in whatever way possible. “Bystander intervention is so natural for this population because when sexual assaults happen on campus they’re typically student on student,” Kiss said. “And they’re happening when administrators aren’t around.”
Traditionally, schools across the country have invested astonishingly disparate amounts of resources in sexual-assault awareness and prevention. Some schools, like Moraine Park Technical College, for example, are launching programs for the first time this year, while others, like the University of Texas, already had Campus SaVE-esque policies prior to its passage. It seems that few institutions, however, fall into the latter category, according to Know Your IX policy coordinator Alyssa Peterson, who noted that the government has never really had a streamlined way to comprehensively track schools’ sexual-assault programs. A major goal of Campus SaVE was to implement minimum standards to make policies more uniform nationwide and ensure that more people on more campuses gain exposure to the complexities of the sexual-assault problem and the most effective means to address it.
But no act of Congress is going to be a cure-all to higher education’s sexual-assault problem. From devising programs and approaches that adequately educate and prepare students to balancing fairness in campus judicial proceedings, there are many strides to be made and questions left to be answered.