COLLEGE

National Fraternity, Sorority Groups Withdraw Support For Safe Campus Act

The groups gave up after spending months lobbying in favor of the bill.
Sigma Nu, Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha Order and the NIC and NPC had spent $210,000 lobbying for controversial provisions in
Sigma Nu, Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha Order and the NIC and NPC had spent $210,000 lobbying for controversial provisions in the Safe Campus Act regarding college sexual assault cases. 

The North American Interfraternity Conference and National Panhellenic Conference withdrew their support late Friday night from the Safe Campus Act, a controversial campus rape bill. 

NIC and NPC, umbrella groups representing fraternities sororities, respectively, backed out of supporting the Safe Campus Act after eight sororities went public this week to say they would not support the bill. Sens. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) had criticized NIC in recent weeks for supporting the legislation, which they said would make campuses less safe. 

The Safe Campus Act, presented in the House, would prohibit colleges from investigating sexual assault cases as violations of the student code of conduct, unless alleged victims also reported the incidents to police. Sexual assault and battery would be the only form of behavior subject to this requirement -- other illegal acts like physical assault or theft would not face similar rules.

"After listening to our member fraternities and partners, the NIC is withdrawing its support of the Safe Campus Act," NIC said in a statement. "The ultimate goal of campus reform is to provide a safer environment for students to further their education."

The Safe Campus Act is uniformly opposed by rape victims' advocacy groups. It's also opposed by a group started by the families of victims in the Virginia Tech massacre, and several higher education trade organizations. The Clery Center, started by the family of a student who was raped and murdered in her dorm, which helped push for the nation's first campus safety law, also opposes the bill. 

The NIC and NPC spent more than $200,000 lobbying for the most controversial provisions in the Safe Campus Act throughout 2015. They played a key role in pushing for the legislation. 

NPC's statement said it would double down the Fair Campus Act, similar legislation that would allow students to hire lawyers to represent them in student misconduct hearings. Fair Campus would not block colleges from investigating sexual assault cases unless at the request of law enforcement.

Several provisions of the Fair Campus Act are important to NIC, the fraternity group said, specifically regarding preserving Title IX single sex exemptions for Greek life organizations, ensuring more due process for student organizations, and barring "individual university officials from playing multiple roles in conduct investigations or hearings."

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Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and sexual violence, and is based in New York. You can contact him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

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