Confusion over new campus sex assault guidelines

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – There is some confusion over the U.S. Education Department’s new guidelines for sexual assault investigations on college campuses.

Critics say they don’t protect victims.

Local universities are wondering if and when this changes their current policies.

In New York, schools comply with state law regarding how they investigate campus sexual assault. That could change if the interim guidelines become federal law.

Many colleges and universities are on standby and are waiting for the next move after the U.S. Department of Education rolled out new interim guidelines for investigating sexual assault cases on college campuses.

The directive means schools can choose to use a different standard of evidence, one that requires a higher burden of proof. Critics say that gives an unfair edge to the accused.

For now, the new guidance changes little on local campuses.

“We hope that every school has a good policy. We are proud of the policy that we have and we’re proud that we follow it fairly for people making complaints and for the respondents,” Lois Goland, Title IX Coordinator & EEO Specialist at Siena College, said.

Unlike some states, New York has its own law to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

At Siena, there is rigorous training and resources available for students.

“Health services, a counseling center, there are a variety places that they [students] can go to. That’s part of it. Another part of it is making sure that they [students] know they are not going to be in trouble for coming forward,” John Bebb, Associate Dean of Students at Siena College, said.

The new guidelines could affect pending civil rights investigations.

More than 250 schools are under federal review for their handling of sexual violence complaints. Skidmore College, UAlbany, and Union College are on that list.

UAlbany and Union College say they comply with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Enough is Enough law and are cooperating with the Department of Education.

At the time of this report, NEWS10 ABC has not heard back from Skidmore College.

Statement from SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson on U.S Department of Education Interim Title IX Guidance:

“SUNY is proud to be a national leader in developing programs to help colleges comply with Title IX, the Clery Act, and other laws, and developing resources for appropriate response to, and prevention of, sexual and interpersonal violence. Governor Cuomo’s Enough is Enough law equips New York’s colleges and universities with some of the strongest guidance in the country. SUNY policy will continue to reflect the best interests of our students while also ensuring their safety.”

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