Legislation Would Hold Universities Accountable for Sexual Abuse

Bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would hold universities accountable for sexual abuse was reintroduced by several U.S. Senators and Representatives from Michigan. The Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act would require leaders of public colleges and universities to submit an annual certification stating they reviewed all sexual abuse allegations involving their employees.

The ALERT Act is sponsored by U.S. Representatives from Michigan Lisa McClain, Elissa Slotkin, and Fred Upton, and Brad Schneider from Illinois. In the Senate, it is sponsored by Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, and John Cornyn from Texas.

The necessity of the ALERT Act is the result of a failure by universities to fulfill the requirements of Title IX, which requires federally funded colleges and universities to establish clear procedures for promptly responding to sexual violence on campus and ensuring that high-ranking university officials report it truthfully.

Cases of sexual abuse by faculty at Michigan State University by Larry Nassar and Pennsylvania State University by Jerry Sandusky made it clear to legislators that Title IX was insufficient, and the ALERT Act is an attempt to increase the accountability among university leaders.

Senator Gary Peters said, “The excuse of ‘I didn’t know’ can never be used again by university leadership — they have a solemn responsibility to protect students. The ALERT Act would implement the measures necessary to hold college and university officials accountable. Survivors, their loved ones and our higher learning communities deserve better. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact this critical legislation.”

Reporting for WGRT – Jessie Wiegand