New commission will pick up work of college sexual violence task force.

 
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Byline: Daniel J. Munoz

In 2017, a 12-member task force then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie convened two years earlier to gauge how to curtail sexual assault at college campuses unveiled an ambitious to-do list on what universities can do to actually reach that goal.

On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a measure that would create a new 12-member body to continue the task force's work, called the Campus Sexual Assault Commission.

Senate Bill 778 calls for Murphy to select five of the picks, which would include representatives from each of the state's county colleges, one of the state's public and another of the state's private universities.

The ranking Democratic and Republican in both the Senate and Assembly will each pick a member, at least one of whom must be a campus sexual assault survivor.

"As we continue to pass policies to ameliorate campus sexual assault, it is equally important we track the impact of those policies and look for ways to improve upon them," the legislation's main sponsor, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-31st District, who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, said last year.

Roughly 20 percent of undergraduate women have been the victims of sexual assault, most of them in their first year of college, according to the task force's June 2017, 39-page report.The group unveiled recommendations split into nine areas that universities could adopt to stop sexual assault.

The newly created commission has 60 days to organize all its members and three years to draw up a new report determining whether any of the polices were effective.

"This commission will allow us to ensure accountability and consistency for how the colleges in New Jersey are addressing and responding to sexual assault," Cunningham added.

The report highlights that while alcohol is often involved in sexual violence cases, it alone is not the root cause, and a ban would do nothing to end it. Such a move, according to the report, would be "an ineffective prohibition that students will easily circumvent."

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