NAICU Washington Update

VAWA Climate Survey Requirements Added to Omnibus

March 11, 2022

The omnibus spending package under consideration in Congress now includes campus climate survey requirements that will affect colleges and universities. The survey requirements are part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization (VAWA) Act of 2022, a bipartisan bill that was added to the omnibus package at the eleventh hour. 

The bill includes provisions requiring institutions of higher education to administer a federally-developed campus climate survey on sexual assault at least once every two years and directs the Department of Education to develop the survey instrument.   

There are a number of concerns about the proposal for colleges and universities, including worries about the one-size-fits-all nature of the survey requirement, as well as the frequency with which it would be administered and the fact that the survey focuses more on the prevalence of campus sexual harassment and assault than on improving the campus climate. The bill, which primarily focuses on improving legal enforcement and services for victims of violence, would also require institutions to ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that an adequate, random, and representative sample of students respond to the survey.  However, it is not clear how institutions would accomplish this, particularly when survey fatigue is common.

Other concerns with the survey include the limits it places on an institution’s ability to customize the tool in order to tailor it to evaluate specific resources, interventions, and circumstances on campus. Finally, the bill does not appear to take into account existing reporting requirements under the Clery Act and the duplication of effort that will result under conflicting state laws requiring surveys or on the many campuses that already conduct such surveys. 

Overall, NAICU is supportive of efforts to improve campus safety, including climate surveys, and had worked with other higher education associations and several state association members to win improvements to make the bill more workable. However, inclusion of the VAWA provisions in the omnibus legislation have made such improvements highly unlikely at this stage. 

The VAWA requirements regarding campus climate surveys are drawn from the HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act of 2021, a bill that has routinely been introduced in recent congressional sessions and included in House Democrats’ proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

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