Brown vetoes widely supported campus sexual assault case bill

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Rachael Garner/File

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A bill that sought to implement more uniform procedures regarding campus sexual assault cases was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown this past weekend.

Assembly Bill 967 called for more consistent disciplinary standards concerning sexual assault within all public and private universities that receive state funds for student financial assistance. The bill also called for the enactment of a policy that would have required institutions of higher education to report the number of cases that are received and subsequently investigated, as well as the number of complaints that are not investigated.

In a statement released to the state Assembly, Brown said the bill “could deprive professionals from using their better judgement to discipline according to relevant circumstances,” citing one of his reasons for the veto.

The veto comes after the bill was overwhelmingly approved in both the Senate and the Assembly in early September.

“While I understand Governor Brown’s concerns, ultimately this bill would have ensured that sexual assault cases were handled equally and fairly, regardless of an offender’s status as an athlete or student,” said Assemblymember Susan A. Bonilla, D-Concord, a co-author of the bill, in an email.

Her comments reflect other legislators’ concerns that cases of campus sexual assault aren’t handled uniformly and that certain students are given preferential treatment. As one of the requirements of AB 967, no “institution shall … carry out a different disciplinary response on the same campus for a matter of sexual violence.”

 

Her comments echo the concern of the bill’s author, Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.

Williams’ concern that “students, families, and the general public need assurance that colleges and universities take campus sexual assault seriously” was included in a comment on a bill analysis.

Some representatives, despite overwhelming support, didn’t agree that the bill was the right move.

Detractors of the bill expressed concern over the bill’s requirement of minimum punishments. Marisa McConnell, co-director of the Cal Consent Campaign and a UC Berkeley student, said she supported the veto because of a concern that the bill’s enforcement of “uniform procedures” would be harmful in ensuring the proper input of survivor testimony.

“I do have concerns about the requirement of mandated minimum punishments,” said Assemblymember Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield — one of the four Assembly members who voted against the bill in September — in a press release at the time of the vote. “Those committing sexual assault within our college campuses should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by our judicial system, not at a campus disciplinary proceeding.”

But Bonilla thinks that the governor’s veto comes at the expense of survivors of campus sexual assault.

“By requiring annual reporting of sexual assault data, AB 967 would’ve provided the necessary transparency that all college students and victims deserve,” Bonilla said in an email.

Contact Charles Fisher at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Sofie Karasek as saying that
End Rape On Campus, a national survivor advocacy group, supported Assembly Bill 967 and that she is disappointed it wasn’t signed. In fact, she was referring to Assembly Bill 968, a bill that would require the governing bodies of California postsecondary educational institutions, including California, to note on students’ transcripts ineligibility to reenroll because of suspension or expulsion.