The Connecticut General Assembly is poised to consider legislation that would require colleges and universities, when investigating allegations of intimate partner violence against students or employees, to allow victims who aren’t students or employees of the institution to participate in any investigation or any hearings.
The bill, An Act Concerning Investigations of Intimate Partner Violence by Institutions of Higher Education, was proposed by Rep. Donna Veach (R-Berlin) with Rep. Craig Fishbein (R-Middlefield) signed on as a co-sponsor. The resolution was Referred to Joint Committee on Higher Education and Employment Advancement earlier this month.
The legislation comes in response to allegations that Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) shut a young woman out of the disciplinary hearings process after she reported being assaulted by her ex-boyfriend who was a student-athlete at the university.
As CII previously reported, after Molly, who was not a student at the university, notified CCSU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities of her assault, the university did not allow her or her family to participate in the disciplinary proceedings against the accused student.
Additionally, in its handling of the case, CCSU violated a number of its own policies regarding its Student Code of Conduct and the rights of victims of intimate partner violence, including Molly’s right to know the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.
Both CCSU and the Board of Regents for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system rejected Molly’s attempts to obtain the results of the hearings by improperly citing protection under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
While the bill would give survivors of intimate partner violence the right to be heard by institutions of higher learning even if they aren’t students, it’s important to note that nothing in CCSU’s policies stated that an individual needed to be a student to have rights in the first place.
The university’s handbook doesn’t stipulate that those who report sexual misconduct have to be students to be entitled to rights.
The university refers to reporters of sexual misconduct as “victims”. However, while the handbook provides definitions for terms like “accused student” and other terms that may be applicable to investigations for a “more thorough understanding” of the code, it does not provide a definition for “victim”. CCSU does not make the determination that a “victim” must be a student.
CCSU’s policies do provide a definition for “complainant”, defining it as a person “who initiates a complaint by alleging that a Student(s) violated the Code”. Here too, the university’s policies do not require a complainant to be a student.
CCSU’s policies do state that those who report any type of sexual misconduct will be “informed in a timely manner of all their rights and options, including the necessary steps and potential outcomes of each option” and that “all reports of sexual misconduct will be treated seriously and with dignity by the institution”.
CCSU did not respond to a request for comment.