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Upton, others call for tougher sanctions on sex abuse at universities

Upton, others call for tougher sanctions on sex abuse at universitie
Holland Sentinel
May 1, 2019

WASHINGTON — Several Michigan elected officials took part in a press conference calling for the passage of the ALERT Act, a bipartisan effort aimed toward holding public universities accountable for sexual abuse and misconduct done by university employees.

Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and Democratic U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow were among the participants. Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who represents Michigan’s 8th District, introduced the Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act on Tuesday, April 30, in front of Congress.

The ALERT Act would require all public universities to certify that one senior officials, i.e. a president or a trustee, has reviewed all of the sexual abuse allegations against university employees.

The ALERT Act comes in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, which rocked the Michigan State University community. Last year, Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting over 150 young women, some as young as six.

Former MSU President Lou Anna Simon resigned after she was found to have not done enough diligence surrounding the case. Her replacement, Interim President John Engler also resigned in January after a string of insensitive comments about the survivors. Peters told Congress that Engler’s resignation was an encouraging sign.

“We need to address the flaws in the system that have clearly failed young people,” Peters said. He told Congress that the ALERT Act would serve as an accountability measure for university officials.

“Ultimately, we need to make sure that there isn’t any excuse.”

Stabenow also cited the Nassar scandal, saying “we, in Michigan, have felt this deeply.

“Colleges and universities have no greater responsibility than keeping their students safe,” she continued. “When they fail to meet that responsibility, they need to be held accountable.”

Upton, who represents Michigan’s 2nd District, said he approached the universities and community colleges in the southwest portion of the state. He told Congress that the officials he reached out to unanimously supported the ALERT Act.

“This has to be exposed and we have to have real penalties,” Upton said. “This is something that’s long overdue.”

In addition to Upton, Peters, Stabenow and Slotkin, Republican U.S. Reps. Paul Mitchell of Michigan and John Cornyn of Texas spoke in support of the ALERT Act. The Act currently has bipartisan and bicameral support. Slotkin told Congress that she is meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in the next week to discuss the bill.

— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at alobo@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @ArpanLobo.

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