INDIANAPOLIS, July 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) today announced its support for both the Safe Campus Act and the Fair Campus Act, two bills currently under consideration by Congress.
NIC President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Smithhisler said that both bills would help address the important issue of collegiate sexual assault by more effectively engaging local law enforcement to investigate crimes of sexual violence. Today, such crimes are routinely investigated by campus-based panels outside the jurisdiction of law enforcement. In addition the bills strengthen due process rights for all students affected by sexual violence – the accuser and the accused.
"These bills are not intended to diminish the important role colleges play in ensuring the well-being of their students," he said. "But we believe sexual violence survivors should have the best possible access to the help they need, whether that's university-provided counseling and other support or the skill and experience of professionally trained law enforcement applied to holding offenders accountable for their actions.
"The best way to protect all students is to equip law enforcement professionals to prosecute and incarcerate predators while allowing schools the opportunity to investigate and adjudicate lesser, non-criminal offenses, where an educational sanction may be most appropriate."
The Safe Campus Act was introduced by U.S. Reps. Matt Salmon (R-Arizona), Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Under the bill, college administrators would have up to 48 hours to inform local police about student-reported sexual assaults involving alleged criminal behavior.
Local authorities would then have 30 days of exclusive jurisdiction to investigate allegations and begin to determine whether a crime occurred. After 30 days, colleges and universities would be allowed to initiate their own investigations, unless local authorities need more time to investigate and believe a concurrent campus investigation would be detrimental to the case.
While police investigate, campuses can take interim measures to protect survivors, including revised class schedules, adjustments to university-provided housing, no-contact orders and temporary suspension of the accused if there is a threat to public safety.
Both the Safe Campus and Fair Campus Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and co-sponsored by Susan Brooks (R-Indiana) call for mandatory educational programs for students regarding sexual assault awareness, bystander intervention and alcohol use and abuse. And it includes rules to prevent universities from punishing student organizations or their members accused of any wrongdoing without first conducting a disciplinary hearing.
A February 2015 poll of likely voters showed that 69 percent of those voters feel Congress is not spending enough time finding policy solutions for sexual assault, while 85 percent believe the criminal justice system – not colleges – should be responsible for determining whether students are guilty of sexual misconduct or assault.
"This legislation will make campuses safer by establishing clearer guidelines for involving police in investigations of sexual assault among students," Smithhisler said. "Involving police to investigate serious crimes – including sexual assault – is a logical and important step toward improving public safety."
About The North-American Interfraternity Conference
Founded in 1909, the North-American Interfraternity Conference is the trade association representing 74 International and National Men's Fraternities. The NIC serves to advocate the needs of its member fraternities through enrichment of the fraternity experience; advancement and growth of the fraternity community; and enhancement of the educational mission of the host institutions. The NIC is also committed to enhancing the benefits of fraternity membership through its relationship with Interfraternity Councils. Today, the NIC has 74 member organizations with approximately 5,500 chapters located on 800+ campuses in the United States and Canada with approximately 350,000 undergraduate members. The NIC is led by a Board of Directors comprised of nine volunteers from member fraternities. The headquarters and professional staff are located in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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SOURCE North-American Interfraternity Conference