State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, requested a report last year to find out how Louisiana college campuses handle sexual assaults. That report from the state's Board of Regents found there are no uniform policies among campuses for handling allegations, nor for how investigators and counselors handle cases. (For example, Title IX coordinators responsible for managing sexual misconduct policies often are school staffers who are merely handed the job, rather than having any background in sexual assault.)
Morrell plans to introduce legislation this spring to create a uniform statewide policy on reporting and handling sexual assault cases on college campuses, as well as mandating anonymous campus "climate surveys" to identify assault issues. The Sexual Assault Working Group held its first meeting last year, followed by another with the Board of Regents March 4.
"Right now sexual assault and domestic violence are these hot-button issues," Morrell told the board. "I want you all to be empowered with this issue going forward. You're the only 'heavy' that can ensure campuses are going forward."
"Overall, campus culture needs to change," said state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans. "It is our responsibility to make sure that if there is a responsible party, they're held responsible, and if there's a victim, he or she is treated fairly."
Morrell also said colleges need to be more proactive to inform students what "consent" means. "When you inform them of the criminal implications of doing things, that tends to mostly get through," Morrell said.