Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s Senate Bill 186 (SB 186) cleared the senate floor Monday, extending California community colleges’ jurisdiction beyond their campuses, allowing them to discipline students who commit sexual assault and sexual exploitation off-campus with suspension or expulsion from the college.
The senate passed the bipartisan bill unanimously, 35-0, and will now send it to the California State Assembly. The original bill language allowed community colleges to discipline students for any off-campus crimes deemed “egregious,” but an amendment limited the authority to sexual assault cases.
Jackson said the amendment was intended to clarify the bill’s purpose to create a mechanism for accountability as part of the greater effort to prevent sexual violence on college campuses.
“I wanted it to be clear that what we are really trying to address here is sexual assault and sexual exploitation,” Jackson said. “We clarified that and that is exactly what we are trying to hone in on.”
According to Jackson, SB 186 will equalize disciplinary procedures at Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara.
“With Isla Vista and the number of City College students that are there, this is going to level the playing field and require the same standards and the same accountability for all student for their off-campus behavior when it comes to sexual assault,” Jackson said.
Jackson also said the bill is designed to ensure that community colleges’ ability to discipline students adheres to due process.
“There was no opposition — only concerns that there is due process,” Jackson said. “As a lawyer and as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’m a firm and strong believer in the due process requirements and need to ensure the hearing process is a fair one for all parties involved.”
SBCC President Lori Gaskin said she is grateful to Jackson for providing community college campuses with the means to enforce consequences for intolerable behavior.
“I really appreciate Senator Jackson for thinking of this bill and moving it forward in such a proactive and committed way,” Gaskin said. “It provides us with an additional tool in our toolbox to help ensure that our students understand the expectations that we have.”
According to Gaskin the bill’s focus on sexual assault prevention is symbolically important because it communicates to college administrations and the state government that sexual violence is a “critical problem.”
“This provides an opportunity for the state — the legislature, the governor — to speak out in the affirmative and say enough is enough,” Gaskin said.
But Gaskin also said the bill passing unanimously is bittersweet because it steers focus towards punishment and away from prevention through education.
“While I appreciate all of the effort and all this bill provides, I don’t want my students to engage in these sorts of behaviors,” Gaskin said. “My focus is on the education, outreach in the forefront, so I don’t ever have to use that tool that Senator Jackson so proactively pushed forward.”
Jackson said Senate Bill 967, which she co-authored with California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, establishes a protocol for college administrators to address sexual assault through outreach and education, and SB 186 will not displace these efforts.
“The goal, of course, is to educate students on what is and is not acceptable behavior by college students,” Jackson said. “We also recognize the importance of providing services to survivors of sexual assault.”
Jackson said college administrators should continue to make proactive prevention, such as is outlined in SB 968, their main objective to prevent sexual assault from occurring.
“We need to have this as a critical tool in the toolbox, if you will, if this behavior occurs,” Jackson said.