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Colleges Expected To React Swiftly To Campus Rape Allegations

Notre Dame University (CBS)

Notre Dame University (CBS)

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Colleges across the country are being put on notice, when it comes to handing sexual assault on campus.

New federal guidelines unveiled Monday say schools need to respond swiftly to any sexual assault allegation.

When Northwestern University students rallied to take back the night, their way of supporting sex assault survivors, seniors Nicole Collins and Emily Scherker were there.

When it comes to handling allegations, Collins said, “Northwestern has been good about getting right on the game.”

But the sexual health and assault peer educator knows that might not be the case at other schools.

According to published reports, the parents of Elizabeth Seeberg, who went to St. Mary’s College in Indiana, have criticized Notre Dame for its follow-up on accusations of sexual battery their daughter made against a football player.  Seeberg later committed suicide.

“I was horrified,” Scherker told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman.

Said Collins: “If you are depending on your university to help you and support you, and to find they’re not doing that — that can absolutely be devastating.”

Criminally, the case dropped. However, Notre Dame’s policies, procedures and response to the matter are the subject of an inquiry by the Office of Civil Rights.

“Rape is rape is rape,” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the new federal guidelines. “The sooner universities make that clear, the sooner we’ll make progress on campuses.”

He said under civil rights law, schools must work on preventing and responding to sexual assault.

“It’s no longer acceptable for some schools to respond really, really well to sexual assault and other schools to respond not so well,” Collins said.

She believes everyone should be held to the same standard.  As for the guidelines – It’s all about living up to Title IX.  It bans discrimination on the basis of sex.  Things like rape fall under discrimination. 

On the extreme, schools that don’t cooperate could lose federal funding.