During Daniel Greenstein’s visit in late October, senior Shelby Jimcosky introduced the Safe Transfer Act to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE’s) chancellor.
The Act, sponsored by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), requires institutions to provide information related to campus sexual assault on the transcripts of students who were found guilty of Title IX violations or are accused of a sexual offense and have a pending disciplinary proceeding.
“[The Safe Transfer Act] is important because it’s the student’s that you’re admitting to the University so this could protect students already enrolled,” said Jimcosky, president of the Feminist Alliance club and political science major with a concentration in American government.
She first heard about the Act from a podcast called Murder Squad. The hosts, former cold case investigator Paul Holes and true crime journalist Billy Jensen, discussed the murders of Morgan Harrington in 2009 and Hannah Graham in 2014 in Charlottesville, Va.
The perpetrator, Jesse Matthews went on the run for a few days before he was found in Galveston, TX. on September 24, 2014. In 2015, he was sentenced to three life sentences for a sexual assault and attempted murder in Fairfax, Va. The following year, he pleads guilty to the murders of Harrington and Graham and received an additional life sentence without the possibility of early release.
However, before Matthews was finally incarcerated, he already had a rap sheet when it came to sexual misconduct.
Matthews attended Liberty University in Virginia, from 2000 to 2002, where he was a member of the football team. He was accused of sexual assault in 2002, but the woman did not file charges so he was not formally charged.
The next semester, Matthews transferred to Christopher Newport University in January 2003 where he joined their football team. In September of the same year, Matthews was accused of sexual assault again. The woman who accused Matthews reported the incident to campus police. Matthews left the school a month later.
“Since all of his Title IX cases were housed under the university he was attending, nothing happened,” Jimcosky said. “He was able to transfer without [the university] knowing about his cases.”
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), more than half of all alleged rapists have at least one prior conviction. Out of every 1,000 suspected perpetrators, 190 have two to four previous rape convictions.
The same year Matthew was sentenced for the deaths of Harrington and Graham, the Safe Transfer Act was introduced. Currently, the Act is only implemented in Virginia.
ESU’s Title IX Coordinator Lonnie Allbaugh said he likes that the Act empowers accepting universities and gives them more information about the student they may or may not accept.
However, he is hesitant at the idea that accused and pending Title IX violations would also be listed.
“At its fundamental, I think it’s important that an accepting university knows that, but I think the scope is overbroad,” he said. “Think about that, if I’ve only been accused of sexual assault, there’s a hearing pending, and that notation on my transcript is being considered by the accepting university, there’s a clear defamation claim.”
Eugene Kelly, interim Dean of Students agrees that part of the law works well, but is concerned about the accused student’s due process rights.
“Public institutions are required to provide the same constitutional rights as an agent of the state. So things like freedom of speech— due process rights for students have to be implemented,” he said.
The Act does allow any student who is subject to disciplinary proceedings to be notified of the disclosure and is allowed to inspect and copy the disciplinary proceedings, which does not include the names of any other students such as the victim or witnesses. The offender or accused student is also granted the opportunity to provide a written statement about the disclosure.
Kelly is also concerned about the severity of the sexual offense that is listed.
“[The Act] is talking about sex offenses. There is a wide variety when it comes to that. Are we talking about sex offenses in terms of ‘I catcalled somebody’ because that’s very different than a forcibly violent sexual assault.”
Ventura College states that Title IX violations rang from gender-based bullying and sexists remarks to stalking, groping, sexual assault and rape. According to the 2019 Clery Report, the most prevalent Title IX violations on campus in 2018 were domestic violence with eight reported incidents, followed by rape with five reported offenses.
Dr. Santiago Solis, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, said he is concerned about the educational component.
“As a receiving institution to these young people, it is also our responsibility to educate. When somebody is accused of something, even if not found guilty, sometimes we start judging or we assumed that they are guilty,” he said. “For me, it’s important to figure out what it would mean to receive students who are accused but not found guilty and then how do we support and educate them as well without that stigma.”
Allbaugh said if there were any items he would change in the legislation it would be to not base the act off of the possible loss of federal funds and remove accused violations from the transcripts.
“I don’t think there is an issue with notification of the accepting university,” he said, “but I think the person should be provided all their due process rights and if they [are found] in violation of Title IX or the student code of conduct and then I think there is some value in having that notation on the information provided to the accepting University.”
Since the average age of a college student is between 18-24 according to Marketing Charts, Dr. Solis is concerned with the impact this Act will have on young people.
“We’re talking about 18, 19, 20-year-old people. They’re very very young. That’s why, for me, these types of legislation— it’s so impactful,” he said. “It’s such huge implications and consequences. For me, this requires very thoughtful and careful conversations to make meaning of it if it were to become law.”
According to Jimcosky, there are students on ESU’s campus who have been dismissed from other institutions for sexual assault and have committed the same acts here. With the Safe Transfer Act, she said, ESU will be a safer place.
“This is not a typical Betsy-DeVos-told-me-to type act,” she said. “This act is a preventative measure for students, women especially, who are the most vulnerable victims of predators.”
She also notes that according to Minnesota Law review, only 2-8 percent of rapes are falsely reported.
“If there is a fair admissions process at this institution, it should not be an issue to review people’s cases and read addendums prospective students may write to explain their case,” she said.
According to University Registrar, Karen Johnson, ESU does not list any misconduct – academic or other – on student transcripts. ESU also does not receive misconduct information about incoming students on their transcripts.
When Jimcosky brought up the Act to Chancellor Greenstein, she said he was open to the idea of it. However, she does not see the law being passed in her tenure as a PASSHE student.
“Our main priority should always be the safety and comfort of our marginalized communities,” she said. “This institution needs to stop protecting rapists.”
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