The Department of Higher Education (DHE) is responsible for implementing the 2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law, and issuing necessary regulations, policies and technical guidance that will help support and advance campus safety and violence prevention (CSVP) initiatives at public and private institutions of higher education (IHEs) in Massachusetts.
Campus Safety Advisor
2008 – Present
In January 2016, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education assembled a Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Task Force that included higher education Presidents, Campus Police Chiefs, Title IX Coordinators, and student leaders; representatives of the Commonwealth’s executive branch and agencies; and community-based practitioners. This followed a 2008 report commissioned by the Board that focused on active shooter policies and practices. The 2016 efforts furthered that work and broadened the scope of CSVP, and in June 2016, the Task Force released a report entitled Securing Our Future: Best Practice Recommendations for Campus Safety and Violence Prevention.
Building off the work done in 2016, the DHE has met frequently with campus administrators, public safety departments, and Title IX officials to follow their progress with meeting their goals in CSVP, assist them in navigating the evolving federal CSVP landscape, and to monitor and bring trends and challenges before the BHE where appropriate.
In 2021, with the support of CSVP community and the Department, and tremendous student advocacy, the legislature enacted landmark legislation, Chapter 337 of the Acts of 2020—also known as the 2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law—which went into effect on August 1, 2021. The new law codifies many of the best practice recommendations outlinced in the BHE 2016 report.
At its first meeting of the 2014-15 academic year, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education declared a “zero tolerance” for sexual violence, including “stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, harassment and sexual assault, which can have devastating effects on individual victims, as well as serious negative consequences for colleges and universities.”
The zero tolerance statement was a follow-up to a 2008 campus violence prevention initiative which resulted in a report entitled, Campus Violence Prevention and Response: Best Practices for Massachusetts Higher Education (June 2008). The 2008 best practices document, though a solid document for its time, had its shortcomings. Drafted in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, it focused almost exclusively on active shooter violence and did not fully address campus sexual violence, including the risks of assaults of minors on campus.
Sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are serious problems. An estimated 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, and the risk of sexual violence is higher for college women ages 18-22 than for non-college women in the same age demographic. This is an issue at campuses nation-wide, and the Commonwealth’s public and private colleges and universities are not excluded.
In January 2016, the Department of Higher Education hired TSG Solutions, Inc. to update the 2008 report.
Over the next six months, the Task Force, led by TSG, set out to address two risks that threaten our institutions of higher education: active shooter and sexual violence. They conducted a statewide survey designed to assess existing policies and practices on campus safety and violence prevention at the Commonwealth’s 29 public institutions of higher education, reviewed national best practices and emerging research in the associated subject areas, conducted campus visits and interviews with senior staff and students, and provided a comprehensive review of key findings. The resulting 120-plus page report entitled Securing Our Future: Best Practice Recommendations for Campus Safety and Violence Prevention was formally accepted by the .Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) on June 14, 2016. The report encompassed a series of recommendations related to campus safety and violence prevention, with a focus on active shooter and sexual violence risks, and its overall theme focused on practical, fair, and transparent ways to protect our campus communities, especially the Commonwealth’s 29 public institutions, from an array of harms.
On September 28, 2016, campus leaders from across the state convened in Worcester to share best practices and insights, and attend trainings on violence prevention and response. By encouraging cross-sector collaboration, the Securing our Future: 2016 Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Conference focused on a systemic approach to addressing campus safety and violence through governance, planning, protocols, and communication.
Chapter 337 of the Acts of 2020—also known as the 2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law—is one of the first state laws of its kind specifically focused on campus responses 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.
The DHE is presently engaging with key stakeholders in state government, the higher education sector, and the greater CSVP network of service providers and advocates to implement the law, which went into effect on August 1, 2021. The new law requires the BHE and DHE to, among other things, promulgate any necessary regulations, convene and co-chair the sexual misconduct climate survey task force, and develop an annual reporting mechanism for institutions. Specifically, under this new legislation, the DHE is responsible for the following:
DHE created an implementation guidance document to provide a roadmap for institutions during Year 1 Implementation (August 1, 2021-August 1, 2022) of the statute, specifically pertaining to: the DHE annual data collection report; the requirement that IHEs “where feasible” enter into MOUs with Local Law Enforcement; and the requirement that IHEs establish MOUs with local rape crisis centers. Also, please find below a timeline of the anticipated steps DHE will be taking to implement this landmark legislation. For any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Amanda Robbins, DHE Campus Safety Advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January - May 2021
May - June 2021
July - August 2021
September - November 2021
Stay tuned - updates regarding trainings, resources, other CSVP topics will continue to be posted here periodically.