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Campus Sexual Assault Drives Up the Cost of College

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The cost to attend college continues to increase, and one of the driving forces that contributes to this are the costs associated with addressing campus sexual misconduct and sexual assaults.  Colleges and universities must respond to increasing legal and regulatory considerations, and must also stay mindful of not becoming the next embarrassing headline.  As a result, colleges and universities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nationwide have added staff, increased training, and overhauled school policies; all of which cost money.

The president of Stockton University, Harvey Kesselman, reports that new laws and regulations colleges and universities must comply with has "created a much better environment,"  although Kesselman acknowledges "there is a real cost associated with it."  Stockton University now employs at least 41 people, three of whom are university attorneys, whose primary role is to ensure that the school is in compliance with various regulations, including Title IX sexual misconduct regulations.

Kesselman is not alone in reporting that increased regulations help to ensure student safety and a positive campus environment.  Valerie I. Harrison, Temple University's senior advisor to the the president for compliance, a newly-created position at the school, states that increased regulations is an inevitable consideration in higher education today, and must be "balanced with [Temple University's] core values, which are the pursuit of knowledge and access and equity." 

Maintaining a safe environment for students is obviously a necessary endeavor for colleges and universities, but schools struggle with the financial burdens and associated time costs involved; especially as concerns over ever-increasing tuition rates continues to grow.  Melissa Wheatcroft, Rowan University's general counsel, stated that having a safe campus is a "wonderful thing...but what that sometimes means is we need an extra body to help do the work necessary to achieve that goal."  Rowan, like many colleges and universities, has recently created high level positions similar to Harrison's at Temple to oversee campus regulatory compliance. 

Rowan has undergone dramatic growth in recent years, and now has two medical schools.  University medical schools create their own unique legal and regulatory challenges, and Rowan's concerns regarding compliance issues prompted the school to recently create a new chief compliance officer position.   Rowan is not alone in taking such measures; although created after the fact, Penn State University, for example, created a similar position in 2013 in response to the fallout from the child sex abuse scandal.  The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), which previously utilized the legal resources of the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, now has two in-house attorneys, a paralegal, and a new director of compliance

Since 2011, federal regulations regarding Title IX sexual misconduct have been of particular concern to college and universities.  The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has aggressively targeted schools for failing to comply with Title IX policies.  The Office of Civil Rights is conducting numerous Title IX investigations at colleges and universities nationwide, and is holding schools responsible for failing to enforce federal policies regarding campus sexual misconduct and sexual assault.  It is not just schools' reputations that are at stake; federal education funds can be withheld if a college or university fails to respond to campus sexual violence per Title IX policies.  Students, both victims of sexual misconduct and those accused, have also brought lawsuits against schools claiming that their rights were violated in how their schools handled the Title IX disciplinary process.  As a result, colleges and universities are revising their policies regarding Title IX investigations and campus disciplinary proceedings.

A related issue is the number of laws and regulations that schools must comply with.  The College of New Jersey's Title IX coordinator, for example, ensures compliance not just with Title IX policies, but other federal laws regarding campus sexual violence, campus crime, and related issues - The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act, Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act, Higher Education Opportunity Act, and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act are but some examples.  State laws are another issue altogether.  Gary Miller, TCNJ's Director of Compliance, reports that what schools must consider in addressing campus disciplinary issues can be overwhelming.  Lynn Klingensmith, West Chester University of Pennsylvania's director of social equity and the school's Title IX and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, adds that it is not enough for one person to attend to such concerns.  Klingensmith reports that schools must "have training for everyone in the university community."

Federal and state laws and regulations are always at issue in campus disciplinary proceedings, even if only in the background.  These laws and regulations will most likely continue to increase as lawmakers, parents, and students expect more from colleges and universities in properly preventing and responding to campus sexual misconduct and other disciplinary issues.  Stocton's Kesselman notes, "It's just how we do business now."

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at universities and colleges across the United States while concurrently fighting in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, and New Jersey. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand universities and colleges across the United States. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide.

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