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Politics

Proposed bill would require new policies for reporting sexual violence on Maine's college campuses

Several college students and advocates are pushing for legislation requiring new policies, training and reporting on sexual violence and misconduct on college campuses.

The proposal was introduced by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and was pushed by the Maine chapter of the student-led Every Voice Coalition.

Bates College Junior India McNeil, the state group's co-director, said the coalition has spent the past two years working with institutions and legislators to address an issue that leads to trauma and long-term impacts for many students, prompting some to drop out of school.

"This disruption of education for so many survivors has incredible lifelong financial impacts, including student loan debt and earning trajectory," McNeill said. "Campus sexual violence is an issue that's continually becoming worse, and we have to do something about it."

The bill would create a state commission that would put together a survey on interpersonal violence every two years. It would also require colleges to develop policies and enter into agreements with local resource centers.

While several students and advocates supported the bill, some groups, including the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said that certain aspects could lead to unintended consequences. Melissa Martin, an attorney with Pine Tree Legal Assistance who works with survivors, said that she worries that parts of the bill could lead to even more burdensome and confusing procedures for survivors.

"We already know there are so many students who are reluctant to report," Martin said. "If there's a possibility that they are going to go through multiple, in-school proceedings, I think that would prevent them from reporting to an even greater degree."

Several Maine college representatives testified against the legislation, saying they already offer many services and supports, and noting that some provisions of the bill conflict with federal law.