Lawmakers propose banning alcohol on college campuses to deal with sexual assaults

11/14/2016 06:27 PM

FRANKFORT – Kentucky officials exchanged ideas about how to best protect young women at the state’s colleges and univiersities from sexual assaults.

The issue of student safety was raised on Monday during the Interim Joint Committee on Education Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education on Monday, as lawmakers heard one in five women will report sexual assault on college campuses nationwide.

Andrea Anderson, Assistant General Counsel and Title IX Coordinator at Western Kentucky University, told committee members that Western Kentucky University is in line with the national average when it comes to reported sexual assaults on campus from August 1 to October 31, 2016.

“We’ve had 13 instances of reported sexual assault during that time frame,” Anderson said. “Of those complaints, seven involved reporting and or responding parties that we’re highly intoxicated.”

Anderson says that her department is actively educating students to be aware of who they are spending time with, because many of the perpetrators of sexual assault are not students.

“Last academic year, we found that the majority of sexual assault complaints were made against non-students,” Anderson said. “Yet, they were people that students had met on campus or near campus.”

The committee also heard that faculty members and Title IX administrators are having to explain the concept of consent with many students.

“We know we have to educate our students that someone who is incapacitated cannot give consent,” Anderson told the committee. “Someone who is helpless, has some type of physical impairment — if they’re incapacitated due to alcohol, drugs, if they’re asleep, if they’re unconcious they can’t give consent.”

“Believe it or not this is news to some of our students.”

According to testimony, alcohol was reported as being a factor in many instances of college sexual assault.

Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, suggested that a ban of alcohol on state university campuses might be the answer, but Robert King, President of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said that would not necessarily fix the problem.

“You know, if we were as serious about alcohol as we were smoking, we’d ban it on campus,” Riner said. “So, I’d really like for you to think about the root of the problem, rather than waiting until the fire is out of hand. Just don’t let the fire in the building.”
“The challenge is you know, you’ve got 19, 20, 21, 22 year-olds who are at an age where you can’t be mom and dad around the clock wherever they are,” King responded.

One issue institutions are constantly trying to upgrade is alerting students in a timely manner of an incident on or close to campus.

Another challenge colleges are addressing is how to disseminate key information to students during emergency situations.

“We do have to balance sending relevant, confirmed, actionable information as quickly as possible, under very stressful conditions without heavily editing the message which takes time in an age where everybody wants to know as much as possible as soon as possible,” Gary Folckemer, Director of Emergency Management and Security at Eastern Kentucky University said. “This is very difficult because the situation is unfolding and the information is still being gathered.”


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