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Mass. Higher Ed Board orders review of campus sexual assault policies

Stonehill College's MacPhaidin Library, which sits near the location of a reported seGetty

State higher education officials meeting Tuesday on the South Coast ordered a review of campus sexual assault policies.

"We will approach our work with urgency, given how important this matter is to our students, affecting both their sense of security and their ability to learn," Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland said in a statement.

The board, meeting at Bristol Community College, heard from representatives at public campuses in Brockton, Fitchburg and Amherst about alleged sexual assaults and efforts to prevent violence on campuses.

The review will be conducted under a resolution calling for a coordinated effort at public colleges and universities focused on sexual assault prevention and the board's guidelines governing prevention and response.

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The board declared "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," according to a Massachusetts Department of Higher Education press release.

The board ordered a review of a 2008 report on best practices to prevent campus violence and plans call for Freeland to report back to the board by December.

The review comes after a recent spate of reported sexual assaults in campuses across the commonwealth, including Stonehill College, Massasoit Community Collegeand Framingham State University.

Earlier this month, a group of Harvard University law professors criticized that shcool's new sexual assault policy, saying it was misguided and unfair. Harvard had created a new policy earlier in the year after coming under fire from federal officials who saw the previous rules as toothless and lax.

Student groups at Harvard, meanwhile, have been pushing for the school to adopt an "affirmative consent" policy.

The Washington Post reported this week that the "number of federal investigations into how colleges handle sexual violence reports have jumped 50 percent during the last six months."


 
 
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