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Our portfolio of projects and programs designed to transform Massachusetts’ higher education landscape and deliver benefits for our stakeholders.
Collaboration and research is underway to produce a new systemwide strategic plan, launching in 2020, that places equity for underrepresented populations as the top performance and policy priority for Massachusetts public higher education.
In 2021, with the support of the Campus Safety and Violence Prevention (CSVP) community and the Department of Higher Education (DHE), and tremendous student advocacy, the legislature enacted landmark legislation, Chapter 337 of the Acts of 2020: An Act Relative To Sexual Violence On Higher Education Campuses, also known as the 2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law. This is one of the first state laws of its kind specifically focused on campus efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence. The law applies to both public and private higher education institutions located in the Commonwealth and authorized to grant degrees and has two major sections: a section pertaining to the requirement that all institutions conduct sexual misconduct climate surveys at least once every four years; and another section which imposes specific policy, procedure and reporting requirements on institutions’ efforts to identify, prevent and respond to sexual misconduct.
Parts of the new law parallel and codify existing requirements under federal law, such as the requirements that institutions provide regular prevention and awareness programming for students and employees; and provide training to campus officials involved in the response, investigation and disciplinary processes related to campus sexual violence. But other requirements in the state law are very new, including, by way of example, requirements that institutions:
DHE will be working with the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Commonwealth’s institutions, advocacy agencies, students, and others in the CSVP community, to implement the law.
Four major components of the new law which require DHE-focused policy development in year 1 of implementation include:
The law commissions a 27-person Task Force on sexual misconduct surveys, to be co-chaired by the Commissioners of DHE and DPH, to develop model questions—to be approved by the commissioner of higher education—for use by institutions in their sexual misconduct climate surveys.
Under the law, institutions shall prepare and submit to the DHE a report that includes specific data points identified in the law related to incidents of sexual misconduct on campus. DHE will analyze data received and publish an annual report containing aggregate statewide information on the frequency and nature of sexual misconduct at institutions.
Under the law, each institution shall, to the extent feasible, adopt a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement agencies to establish the respective roles and responsibilities of each party related to the prevention of and response to on-campus and off-campus sexual misconduct.
Additionally, the DHE must promulgate regulations to implement the subsection on Police MOUs. The final Local Law Enforcement Agency MOU Regulations (610 CMR 14.00) were filed on July 30, 2021 and will take effect on August 20, 2021, the day they are published in the Massachusetts Register.
Under the law, an institution that does not provide its own sexual assault crisis service center shall enter into and maintain an MOU with a community-based sexual assault crisis service center funded by the department of public health and a community-based domestic violence program funded by the department of public health.
Institutions that already have such services in place on-campus may be exempt from this statutory requirement and institutions that have engaged in good faith efforts but were unable to obtain the required MOU may seek a waiver by submitting a written request to the DHE. The process and criteria for seeking such waivers from the DHE are forthcoming and will made available on the DHE’s website.
An additional component of the law requires the Commissioner to appoint a campus safety advisor to facilitate and advance statewide campus safety at public and private institutions of higher education. I am honored to fill that role for the department. As the Campus Safety Advisor, I look forward to working with our institutions, students, advocates and the entire CSVP community, providing technical assistance and guidance as we all work together to implement this landmark legislation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.