U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., announced new legislation Tuesday that aims to hold universities accountable for pursuing investigations regarding allegations of sexual misconduct.
The proposed Title IX Take Responsibility Act aims to increase schools’ accountability for sexual misconduct and prevent and correct the impacts of sexual assault at the university and state levels. The legislation comes after two universities in her district — the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University — came under fire for varying sexual assault and harassment cases.
“For too long survivors of assault have suffered in silence, afraid to come forward for fear of retribution, attacks on their character, physical fear, or, quite frankly, lack of action,” Dingell said in a press release Tuesday. “Unfortunately, we see too much of it in Michigan, we see it across the country, and I’ve seen it in my own home.”
The act suggests that schools would be legally liable for failing to prevent or correct acts of sexual misconduct if the school is assumed to have had knowledge of the allegations. The bill would further enforce the “reasonable care” standard introduced by former Secretary of Education Betsy Devos.
“This is trying to get universities, colleges, schools, to understand that when you’re hearing these rumors, they have (a) responsibility, even if no one’s filed charges, you’ve got to listen to these rumblings of a cultural problem on your campus,” Dingell told the Detroit Free Press in an interview.
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., is a co-sponsor of the bill. In the press release, Hayes said the impact of sexual violence has a ripple effect for survivors, including issues of physical and mental health as well as academic difficulties.
“One incident of sexual violence is one too many, and those that enable and perpetuate violence must be held accountable,” Hayes said. “This bill would ensure that the onus is on education institutions to take responsibility for campus culture and sufficiently prevent and respond to violence against students, faculty and staff.”
The University is facing criticism in response to new information about sexual assault allegations against former football team doctor Robert Anderson. Hundreds of former University students have alleged Anderson sexually assaulted them over decades, stretching back to his first years as a University doctor in the 1960s. An independent report by the law firm WilmerHale found that top-ranking University officials knew of Anderson’s abuse as early as 1975 and allowed him to stay employed until 2003.
Eastern Michigan University is also facing 24 lawsuits claiming the university failed to handle sexual misconduct allegations when students reported them. Earlier this month, four women and one man joined the other plaintiffs in requesting the University address the repeated instances of sexual assault both on and near campus.
Daily Staff Reporter Shannon Stocking can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.