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Campus sexual assault legislation and FY21 budget updates

December 15, 2020

Legislative Alert

To: AICUM Government Relations VPs/Directors

From: Rob McCarron, Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Brad Freeman, Vice President of Government Relations

Re: Campus sexual assault legislation and FY21 budget updates

Dear AICUM General Counsels and Government Relations VPs/Directors:

We wanted to provide you with two important updates on campus sexual assault legislation and the FY21 budget as the Massachusetts Legislature heads into the final two weeks of the current session.

Campus sexual assault legislation:

As we have expected since the release of new Title IX rules in May, the Massachusetts Senate is very likely to consider legislation this week that seeks to address the issue of campus sexual assault on the state level. The bill (copy attached) has been revised and redrafted by the Senate Committee on Ways & Means to incorporate many of the amendments that AICUM has been proposing through the invaluable help and insights of our working group of general counsels and Title IX coordinators.

We have been working to respond to an evolving version of this legislation for more than five years. The current draft of the bill is in a much better place than when this process started because it reflects a significant number of the changes and improvements that we have recommended during this lengthy journey.

The key elements of the proposed legislation include:

• A requirement that all colleges and universities conduct a sexual misconduct climate survey at least once every 4 years

o A task force co-chaired by the commissioner of higher education and the commission of public safety would be charged with developing model questions for use by institutions in such climate surveys.

o AICUM institutions would have 2 representatives on the 27-member task force. There would also be 2 students from a private college or university on the task force.

o The group of model questions developed by the task force would also include a “subset of questions taken from or consistent with” questions that have been used in the Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative survey or other “high-quality” sexual misconduct climate surveys (e.g. AAU Survey) that are currently in use by institutions

o A college or university may develop and use its own campus-specific survey if the survey: is designed to provide the institution with data to inform policies to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, meets quality standards determined by the DHE commissioner, and includes the subset of model questions taken from the “high-quality” surveys.

o Within 120 days of completion and analysis of the climate survey, colleges and universities would be required to post a summary of the results on the institution’s website.

• An effort to codify into state statute many of the policies and procedures that were implemented during the Obama administration, well before the new Title IX regulations were released this May. The Massachusetts House and Senate issued a joint statement yesterday that recognizes the likelihood of additional Title IX changes under the incoming Biden administration.

o All colleges and universities would be required to adopt policies on sexual misconduct involving students and employee that are consistent with applicable state and federal law/regulation and comport with the best practices and current professional standards

o The parties involved in an alleged incident of sexual misconduct would be prohibited from directly questioning each other during a hearing or disciplinary proceedings

o To the extent feasible, all institutions would be required to enter into an MOU with the local law enforcement agency to establish how each will work to prevent and respond to on- and off-campus sexual misconduct

o If a college or university does not provide its own sexual assault crisis services on campus, it would be required to enter into an MOU with a community-based sexual assault crisis service center and a community-based domestic violence program

o All colleges and universities would be required to provide a method for anonymously reporting an incident of sexual misconduct that involves a student or employee of the institution

o Each institution would be required to designate at least 1 employee as a “confidential resources provider”. The confidential resource provider cannot be a student, the Title IX coordinator, or any employee who is required by Title IX to report to the Title IX coordinator.

o The confidential resource provider would be available to inform either a reporting party or a responding party about the institution’s disciplinary process, including reporting options, counseling services, medical/health services, and supportive measures.

FY21 budget:

Governor Baker signed the FY21 budget on Friday, while returning to the Legislature a series of vetoes and amendments. We are pleased to report that Governor Baker accepted the funding levels ($120 million) and language for the need-based scholarship programs (7070-0065), which increased funding for these programs by $14.4 million over the FY20 budget.

This significant increase includes a requirement that the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) direct the new funding to the MassGrant program ($10 million) and the Gilbert Matching Grant program ($4.4 million), meaning that both of these important programs will have additional funds available for students as we head into the spring semester. We have reached out to the OSFA to inquire about the process for notifying students and institutions about these additional funding opportunities and the timeline for making these funds available. We will share with you what we learn from OSFA in the coming days.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions on campus sexual assault legislation or the FY21 budget.

Thank you

Legislative updates

December 15, 2020