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Nature


Strategic Initiatives

Campus Safety & Violence Prevention

Overview

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.

Contact

Amanda Robbins
Campus Safety Advisor
arobbins@dhe.mass.edu

Duration

2008 – Present

Funding

 

Related Data

 

 

Student Identities
Partnerships

 

Related Initiatives

 

Background

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 PDF 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.

2016 Campus Safety and Violence Prevention Taskforce

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. 

Securing Our Future

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 PDF Securing Our Future: Best Practice Recommendations for Campus Safety and Violence Prevention was PDF 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.

2021 Campus Sexual Assault Law

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:

Campus Climate Surveys

  • Co-chairing a Task Force to develop campus climate surveys
  • Reviewing and approving the sexual misconduct climate survey model questions provided by the task force; and periodically reviewing and making recommendations for changes to the model questions and to the content and timing of the sexual misconduct climate surveys
  • Providing a copy of the model questions to all institutions; and approving any deviations from the model questions

Campus Safety Advisor

  • Appointing a campus safety advisor to facilitate and advance statewide campus safety at public and private institutions of higher education. The advisor will coordinate, aggregate and disseminate best practices, training opportunities and other resources to enhance campus safety at institutions.

Community Based Service Provider MOUs

  • Implementing and overseeing the waiver process for institutions that seek to enter into statutorily-mandated memoranda of understanding with a community-based sexual assault crisis service center but, despite good faith efforts, are unable to secure a signed memorandum of understanding.

Local Law Enforcement Agency MOUs

  • Promulgating regulations under new Section 168E of Chapter 6 of the General Laws regarding the requirement that institutions enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local law enforcement agencies to coordinate sexual misconduct prevention and response. 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 when they are published in the August 20, 2021 issue of the Massachusetts Register.

Implementation Guidance and Timeline

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 arobbins@dhe.mass.edu.

Regulatory Drafting and Task Force Composition

What?
  1. Preparing draft Regulations related to an IHE’s responsibility to enter into MOUs with local law enforcement agencies (610 CMR 14.00) required to be implemented by August 1, 2021 to be put out for public comment
  2. Coordinating with the Department of Public Health and the Boards and Commission division to facilitate recommended appointments of members to the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys

When?

January - May 2021


Public Comment Period (610 CMR 14.00) and Task Force Planning

What?
  1. Publishing draft local law enforcement MOU Regulations (610 CMR 14.00) for public comment
  2. Initial planning and timeline development with the Department of Public Health for the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys

When?

May - June 2021


Final Promulgation of Regulations (610 CMR 14.00), Guidance Drafting, and Task Force Kickoff

What?
  1. Final promulgation of local law enforcement MOU Regulations (610 CMR 14.00)
  2. Development and issuance of implementation guidance related to other aspects of the new law, including institutions’ annual reporting requirements.
  3. First meeting date and work plan finalized for the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys

When?

July - August 2021


Task Force, Recommendation Drafting

What?
  1. Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys meets periodically to finalize recommendations of model campus climate survey questions for the Commissioner of Higher Education

When?

September - November 2021


Final Task Force Recommendations and Annual Reporting Portal Launch

What?
  1. Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Surveys transmits its recommended model questions to the Commissioner of Higher Education
  2. DHE makes annual CSVP reporting portal available to IHEs

When?

December 2021


Stay tuned - updates regarding trainings, resources, other CSVP topics will continue to be posted here periodically.