UT Chancellor William McRaven signed a letter with five other university chancellors Tuesday in support of bills that fight sexual assault on college campuses as the Texas Legislature concluded its final session Monday.
The five other chancellors were Texas A&M’s John Sharp, University of Houston’s Renu Khator, University of North Texas’ Lee Jackson, Texas Tech’s Robert Duncan and Texas State’s Brian McCall.
“The legislation offered during the 85th Session, some of which passed and is now before Governor (Greg) Abbott, complements what we currently do on our campuses related to allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and dating violence,” the letter said.
The letter gave special recognition to state legislators who authored bills that targeted sexual assault on college campuses, including State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.
Watson authored two bills that recently passed through the legislature — S.B. 968, which requires universities to create an electronic system where students and employees can report sexual assault anonymously, and S.B. 969, which requires universities to provide amnesty for students who report sexual assault but violated other laws, such as underage drinking.
Both bills await Abbott’s signature before becoming state law.
The bills come in the wake of concerns regarding the prevalence and handling of sexual assault on UT and other college campuses.
A UT system survey released in March found fifteen percent of female undergraduates reported being raped at UT Austin since their enrollment, the highest percentage across eight UT System institutions. The survey’s results caused an intense response from the UT community and has since remained at the forefront of conversations at the University.
In the letter, McRaven and the other chancellors said they will work on their own campus policies and target key areas related to sexual assault and dating violence, such as coordination with campus police, educational initiatives for sexual assault prevention and counseling services for victims. They also said their respective universities will review their sexual assault policies annually.
“We stand committed to working with the Texas Legislature, survivor groups and others in the interim to ensure that our sexual misconduct policies are reviewed on an annual basis and that our reporting and compliance are even more efficient and robust,” the letter said.