Casey offers support to Sawrthmore College students

By:  Jeff Wolfe

Swarthmore College students Mia Ferguson and Hope Brinn knew they were causing a stir when they and others on the campus filed Clery Act and Title IX violations against the college, alleging that the administration is under-reporting cases of sexual misconduct on campus.

But their message was also heard loud and clear in the nation’s capital as U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking for quick implementation of his law that calls for greater accountability from colleges on sexual misconduct issues.

“It’s critical that the Department of Education swiftly implement legislation I authored to create uniform reporting standards for sexual violence on college campuses,” Casey said. “It’s important that colleges across the country and the Department of Education work together to meet the reasonable expectations of students that acts of sexual violence are reported appropriately.”

The Campus SaVE Act, which became law as Section 304 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, requires colleges and universities to clearly spell out policies regarding sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The Campus SaVe Act is designed to increase awareness and prevention of acts of violence by requiring transparency of information, prevention programs, assistance for victims and clear institutional judicial proceedings to promote accountability.

That was a bit of good news for Ferguson, who has said all along that this is not just an issue at Swarthmore, but on campuses across the country.

“It shows there is an opportunity for leadership and it’s exciting the senator is coming forward and trying to implement some change and be a leader,” Ferguson said. “It’s good to know that some people are seeking solutions.”

Some of the solutions in the amendment include requiring colleges to include their reporting policies for violent or sexual crimes in their annual report, to give students who report such crimes a written explanation of their rights, explain the school’s obligation to report violations and to start bystander education to help students to stop violent or sexual misconduct if they see it happening.

Ferguson says there has been a lot of discussion on the issue of sexual misconduct the past few weeks on campus, but still isn’t satisfied with the administration’s reaction.

“We have no idea what’s going on because the transparency is nonexistent,” Ferguson said. “There might be a solution, but they haven’t informed us of it. They have to be accountable to us.”

Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp announced last week that the school had hired the firm of Margolis, Healy and Associates to review the college’s policies and procedures on sexual misconduct cases. It was also announced that a sexual misconduct task force, which includes three current students, will support the review.