Georgia college system to review safety, sexual assault policies

Georgia is the latest state to begin a wholesale review of how sexual assaults are handled at its colleges and universities.

The review, announced Wednesday by University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, will be part of the work of a new committee charged with examining all aspects of campus safety and security at the state’s 31 public institutions.

Calling it “long overdue,” Huckaby said the committee’s work was prompted by the times.

“Currently, the issue of campus safety is receiving a great deal of national attention, both in the press and in Congress,” he said. “It’s everywhere. It’s part of the environment we’re in.”

The review is similar to work undertaken at other colleges across the country, and it comes as federal scrutiny has highlighted deficiencies in compliance and reporting at some colleges, and uncovered disturbing stories of student assaults.

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating more than 70 colleges and universities for their handling of sexual abuse complaints. Emory University is the only Georgia institution included, but its investigation is part of a compliance review.

A recent report released by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., found that more than 40 percent of 300 colleges and universities surveyed had not investigated a single sexual abuse case in the past five years.

The state committee will focus on the safety training and performance of campus officers, along with consistency and quality of reporting under the Clery Act. That federal statute requires all colleges receiving federal financial aid to report crimes on or near campuses. The committee will also review alcohol and other substance abuse issues on campuses, as well as mental health issues and policies. Part of the committee’s examination of sexual abuse procedures will include a review of personnel training, case management and federal compliance.

The committee’s members — to be appointed by Huckaby — will include a range of college faculty and staff, along with campus police and students. Their work is expected to begin next month. A preliminary report is due Dec. 15, with a final report expected in June.

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