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Public universities would risk funding if assault, harassment standards fall short

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State universities might face budget reductions for failing to meet benchmarks to address and prevent campus sexual assault and harassment. That’s part of a proposal rolled out by the Senate higher education budget subcommittee. It would hold back funding for universities that don’t meet all the requirements of Title Nine and other programs to prevent campus sexual misconduct.

The plan has bipartisan support.

“The Number One responsibility of the state is to keep people safe," said state Sen. Curtis Hertel, the ranking Democrat on the Senate higher education budget subcommittee. "We obviously have an epidemic of sexual assault on our college campuses, so anything we can do to encourage best practices is important.”

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, chairs the higher education budget subcommittee. She says the problem is more sweeping than cleaning up after the Larry Nassar scandal at Michigan State University.

“We’re not just talking about sexual assault," she said. "We’re also talking about sexual harassment, you know, it’s a very broad-ranging issue.”

The plan would put a portion of university funds into an escrow account until they certify they’ve complied with the standards.

A spokesman for Michigan’s 15 public universities says they will any comply with rules set by the Legislature to address campus sexual misconduct.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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