Some high-profile incidents of sexual assaults on campus have made lawmakers and universities reconsider the policies on how to handle assault allegations. Now with the first day of classes starting for colleges and universities across the East Bay, students may be facing expulsion for sexual assaults, even when they occurred off campus, and did not involve another student.
State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced a bill that would extend the disciplinary ability of the state's community colleges. Students could face suspension or expulsion for sexual assaults, even when the victim was not a student, or if it happened off campus grounds. This would bring California community college policies in line with University of California and California State University systems policies.
Currently, community colleges can only remove students under limited circumstances, relating to college activity. The bill, known as SB 186, easily made it out of the state legislature, with no lawmakers opposing the measure. It has now been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.
This bill is one of many that California legislators are considering relating to sexual assault on campus.Another bill, AB 968, would require universities to put a note on a student's transcript if they are ineligible to re-enroll due to an expulsion or suspension.
Another bill would requires colleges to disclose more information about disciplinary actions taken against students. Assembly Bill 967 would require additional information in cases of disciplinary proceedings related to any claims of sexual assault. The schools would also have to post specified data relating to cases of alleged sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on the institution's website.
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating more than 100 colleges and universities in the country for mishandling sexual assault cases, including UC Berkeley. A Cal student has even sued the university, alleging officials failed to inform her of the complaint process, did not allow her to participate in a disciplinary hearing, and did not keep her updated on the investigation in her case.
Assemblywoman Das Williams, a Democrat representing Santa Barbara, is the author of some of these bills. “The state of California has an obligation to provide a safe and secure learning environment at our colleges and universities. We need to take proper steps to ensure they are a safe place, because they are not safe right now,” said Williams.
While some argue that universities are not doing enough to combat sexual assault on campus, others do not think that it should be the universities investigating these cases, which should be treated as criminal matters. Bakersfield Assemblywoman Shannon Grove said, “College administrators should not be conducting criminal trials for serious crimes, and our state Legislature should not mandate punishments as these quasi-judicial hearings.”
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people charged with criminal offenses in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of criminal defense experience, she understands sexual assault penalties, and knows how to fight to keep your arrest from ending in a conviction. Contact your local East Bay criminal defense attorney who will make sure you get the justice you deserve.