Klobuchar wants more money for campus sex-assault monitoring

We need to monitor better (Alex Friedrich / MPR)

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has called for an increase in the number of federal investigators who make sure colleges properly handle and report sexual assault cases on their campuses.

The Minnesota Democrat has joined 11 other Senators in requesting millions of dollars to fund additional personnel.

She and her colleagues say investigation into colleges’ alleged violations of federal laws has been weak.

“When we know that one out of five women are victims of sexual assault on campuses, that means it’s not good enough,” Klobuchar said after a press gathering at the University of Minnesota Friday. “And that’s why we’re trying to get more oversight.”

The lawmakers’ letter last month to a Senate subcommittee asks for $7 million in additional funding to the Department of Education so it can better monitor colleges.

About $5 million would go to the department’s Office for Civil Rights so it could hire staff dedicated solely to investigating how colleges handle sexual-assault complaints.

That funding would be on top of the $102 million requested by President Barak Obama for the office, which enforces a wide range of civil rights laws.

The other $2 million would fund an additional thirteen personnel to make sure colleges properly report sexual assault cases. That would effectively double the current staff, Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar’s discussion came amid a week in which federal officials have put a spotlight on campus sexual assaults.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges it’s investigating for possible mishandling of sexual violence cases.

No Minnesota colleges were on the list.

Joelle Stengler, incoming student body president of Twin Cities campus, told reporters she was relieved to see that the U was not among the 55.

But she said she then thought that might mean that sexual assaults were underreported at the U.

“While I think that our university is doing an excellent job being at the forefront of this issue, [underreported claims are] causing us to not understand exactly what the gravity of this issue is.”

On Tuesday, the White House issued recommendations on how campuses can better combat sexual violence.

After reading the report, President Eric Kaler said, he thought the U is “doing well.”

“We are, of course, not perfect,” he said. “Nor is this campus immune from sexual violence. Unfortunately, it’s far from it. But we have been at the forefront of addressing sexual violence.”

Still, he said, “there is always more to be done.”