Santa Barbara Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblyman Das Williams will give a talk titled “Sexual Assault on College Campuses” in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall today at 8 p.m.
The talk, hosted by Walter H. Capps Center’s forum on Ethics and Public Policy, will focus on how legislation can address sexual assault and how institutions of higher learning use disciplinary codes to penalize perpetrators of sexual assault without holding them criminally liable. Jackson and Williams have both introduced legislation this year focusing on college administrations’ mechanisms for enforcing sexual assault policies.
Williams recently introduced several bills to the state assembly to combat sexual assault, including AB 967, which would extend perpetrator sentences to at least two years of suspension up to expulsion; AB 968, which would require academic transcripts to indicate if a student is ineligible to re-enroll; and AB 969, which would allow community colleges to suspend or expel perpetrators as well as require them to disclose information regarding their history of sexual assault.
According to Williams, California universities are not doing enough to address sexual assault on campus.
“More needs to be done to provide a safe and secure environment for our students at our higher education institutions,” Williams said in an email. “We must ensure that our campuses are investigating crimes, prosecuting perpetrators, and providing support and resources to victims.”
Williams said there is a very low conviction rate for sexual assault cases because they require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This [amount of hard evidence] is very difficult to achieve given the nature of the crime,” Williams said in an email. “There needs to be some consequences for committing sexual assault and my bills are attempting to make that easier to achieve.”
Jackson recently introduced a bill titled SB-695, which would require high school health courses to include instruction on affirmative consent, sexual harassment, assault, violence and healthy relationships. According to Jackson, proactive sexual assault prevention starts with early education about healthy relationships and consent for both male and female students.
“If we want to prevent sexual assault, it’s important that we start early,” Jackson stated in a press release. “This bill will ensure that discussions about healthy relationships and consent are taking place in high school.”
Hannah Bartlebaugh, undergraduate assistant at the Capps Center and fourth-year political science and psychology double major, said she helped with media outreach for the event and hopes it will shed light on the public policy conversation in progress at a statewide level about sexual assault on campus.
“I hope it brings greater light, not only to the issue … but also to what policy work is being done to address it,” Bartlebaugh said.
Williams said he is speaking at Lotte Lehmann in order to help spark discussion about sexual assault on add campus and get students to advocate for policies that will combat and end sexual violence.
“I hope we’ll have a productive conversation about how to change campus policies to make it easier for survivors of sexual assault to get justice and not have to continue going to school with their assailants,” Williams said in an email.
Gregory Jarrett from Walter H. Capps for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life and coordinator of the Sexual Assault on College Campuses event said that sexual violence on college campuses is not a new issue, but the public is paying attention to the issue now largely because of new acknowledgements made by political entities regarding sexual assault.
“Campus Sexual violence is a very old problem, but only occasionally is it discussed outside of a few classrooms. It is currently back in the public eye, in part because the Department of Education and the Obama Administration have recognized the argument that this is not just a problem of isolated individuals,” Jarrett stated in an email. “It is also an assault on women, depriving women of an equal right to education under Title IX.”
Jarrett also said college campuses have been unsuccessful in changing the situation of sexual violence on campus and the community has the opportunity to come together during this event with Williams and Jackson to create productive discourse surrounding the subject.
“The level of sexual violence against women on campus is a moral outrage. Universities appear to be unable to change the situation without outside support,” Jarrett said in an email. “This is an opportunity for all of us to come together in the spirit of community and openly discuss these issues, and hopefully come to a consensus to actually do something about it.”