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Sunday, April 21, 2024
With more state funding, Chancellor Blank revives cluster hiring program

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Wednesday that the university will revive its cluster hiring program.

Bill would eliminate drinking tickets for victims, witnesses of sexual assault

Victims of sexual assault and bystanders who provided assistance would not receive consequences for improper alcohol consumption, state legislators and university personnel explained in a bill unveiled Monday.

Authored by state Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, and state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, the Sexual Assault Amnesty Bill will ensure a “depth of convincingness” on a practice already in UW-Madison policy, according to Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

Ballweg cited statistics on sexual assault from the 2015 Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, including low reporting numbers on sexual violence crimes. The report also found nearly 75 percent of victims had been consuming alcohol at the time of the assault.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel acknowledged the difficult path for sexual assault victims coming forward to law enforcement, explaining that victims could face many questions, invasive medical exams and “aggressive challenges to their credibility and character.” He said this bill will remove one barrier by excusing victims and intervening bystanders of any charges related to alcohol.

Blank thanked several campus partners for their work regarding the prevention of sexual violence, including the UW-Madison Police Department, University Health Services and the student organization Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment.

Blank described UW-Madison’s own practices in these types of situations, saying victims of sexual assault and bystanders giving assistance are not subject to disciplinary action from the Dean of Students, University Housing or UW-Madison Police if they engaged in improper alcohol use like underage drinking.

Blank also said the university has rolled out initiatives to inform students that the university will focus on the sexual assault and not on any improper alcohol use, but she said it would be helpful to point to a portion of Wisconsin law that implements this practice.

Kelly Moe Litke, director of prevention and programs at the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, also shared her support for the bill at the press conference.

“It is only through the courage of survivors coming forward to report these crimes that we can hold perpetrators accountable,” Moe Litke said. “WCASA appreciates that this bill not only removes a barrier to reporting for survivors, it sends the message that survivors are not to blame for the violence committed against them.”

The bill will have at least some measure of bipartisan support, as a spokesperson for state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, who represents campus, said she has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Ballweg said she hopes the proposal will have a public hearing this week and pass before the end of legislative session in March. A spokesperson for state Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenfield, chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said the bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Andrew Bahl contributed to this report.

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