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Student activism drags lawmakers to the drafting table to deal with sexual assaults

Recently, students at the University of California, Berkeley, rose up in anger over their campus’ official handling of several sexual assaults in their midst. Student activists have chosen to file a federal complaint against the university. The institution is already facing a state investigation and heavy media criticism.

For the second time in a year, a large group of students has demanded that the U.S. Department of Education investigate UC Berkeley, suggesting that they violated federal anti-discrimination laws by failing to protect them against sexual harassment and assault. When the Department of Education took no discernible action, the students asked the Office for Civil Rights to intervene. By raising national awareness and controversy, the student groups have managed to push lawmakers to deal with these troubling situations expeditiously.

Activists argue that the campus disciplinary process does not adequately investigate or hold perpetrators responsible. Nor, they claim, does it keep victims informed about their cases. They offer specific incidents to back up their claims. The California clamor for drastic, grassroots changes in assault victim treatment is part of a national movement to force university campuses to deal with these issues in a fair, effective and expeditious manner. Such reform is long overdue; according to a White House task force, this type of violence currently has a direct impact on one in five college women.