Colleges and universities in California will continue regulating sexual assault punishments based on their own policies as Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have imposed a mandatory minimum punishment process for all colleges receiving funds from the state.
Amid a nationwide fight to end sexual assault on college campuses, was Brown's decision really the right move?
If passed, Assembly Bill 967 would have required colleges to give at least a two-year suspension to any student found responsible for a sexual assault violation in a campus judiciary process.
The bill would also have required schools receiving state funds to develop detailed sexual assault policies and report on the results as well as implement mandated punishment to students found to have committed “egregious” violations of the policies, including expulsion, suspension and the loss of financial aid/scholarships.
Brown’s veto message said that such legislation wouldn’t allow campus administration to use discretion in their investigations of sexual assault allegations or in disciplining students.
He also said that it shouldn’t be up to the state to decide what kind of punishments colleges carry out.
"I don't think it's necessary at this point for the state to directly insert itself into the disciplinary and governing processes of all private nonprofit and public colleges in California," Brown said in his message.
If campuses throughout the nation were doing an adequate job of regulating sexual assault on their own, there wouldn't be a need for all of the ongoing campaigns that activists, celebrities and public figures facilitate to end campus rape.
One of AB 967's terms, which I believe is totally necessary, would have required private and public colleges and universities to issue a report every two years showing the number of allegations of campus sexual assault, the results of their investigations and any disciplinary action taken.
That tidbit is vital information for student safety and citizens should always have access to a school’s reported sexual assault statistics to allow prospective students to make an informed decision before committing to attend.
Those statistics could be a valuable deciding factor between someone choosing one school over another.
Furthermore, the two-year time frame allows for a more up-to-date and consistent report on schools' progress in decreasing sexual assault on their campuses.
I’m thinking another bill, framed with just the two-year reporting requirement, should be reintroduced at a later time with the caveat that citizens can access the results as well.
Although he nixed AB 967, Brown has previously taken other steps to combat sexual assault on college campuses in California.
He previously signed a measure requiring that certain sex-ed classes teach affirmative consent by redefining the terms of sexual consent as “Yes means yes” instead of the traditional, “No means no.”
This year, he also signed another bill that ensures existing jurisdictional agreements between postsecondary institutions and local law enforcement include responsibility for investigating sexual assaults and hate crimes.
Recommended: Guns On Campus Will Not Solve Sexual Assault