CORRECTION AND RETRACTION: A Daily Beast college columnist at the University of Wisconsin based this article off a Jezebel posting which was incorrectly reported. Jezebel updated their post on Saturday with the following after USA Today published a story debunking Jezebel's account and clarifying Gov. Scott Walker's position. "UPDATE: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Cleary Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims.”
When The Daily Beast contacted Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel for comment on Friday, his office expressed reservations about Walker’s proposal. His office told The Daily Beast in a statement that the Attorney General “is concerned about some of the provisions in the budget that may reduce information provided to college students and take away reporting requirements. He will work with representatives from UW and the Governor’s office to determine what prompted these changes and to ensure that we provide all of the protection we reasonably can for our college students,” but it is unclear if Schimel’s office was aware of the stated purpose of the provision in question. The Daily Beast is committed to covering the news fairly and accurately, and we should have checked this story more thoroughly. We deeply regret the error and apologize to Gov. Walker and our readers. Our original story should be considered retracted.
Buried within Gov. Scott Walker’s $68 billion budget proposal for Wisconsin is a gutpunch for advocates for assault victims: provisions to end requirements for colleges and universities to report sexual assaults on campus to state law enforcement.
The shocking language was first discovered by Jezebel on Friday. Walker’s proposed budget stipulates the deletion of “the requirement that any person employed at an institution who witnesses a sexual assault on campus or receives a report from a student enrolled in the institution that the student has been sexually assaulted report the assault to the dean of students.”
Walker also aims to “delete the requirement that each institution report annually to the Department of Justice (DOJ) statistics on sexual assaults” in a bill section on page 508 in a section titled, “Delete Language Related to Sexual Assault Information and Reporting.”
His previously unnoticed attempt to delete the requirement of reporting sexual assault to new students and the state’s Department of Justice may be the governor’s ploy to pick a fight with the federal government. Under the Clery Act, any school that receives public funding must report sexual assault incidences to the federal Department of Justice, so Walker’s proposal goes just short of explicitly violating Title IX regulations—and it still may be crossing a legal line.
And many of Walker’s constituents—and some who work in powerful positions in the state—think Walker has picked the wrong fight.
One of the state universities, the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, is already being investigated by the Department of Education for violating Title IX with its failure to investigate and respond to campus sexual assault.
Furthermore, even Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has expressed reservations about Walker’s proposal. His office told The Daily Beast in a statement that the Attorney General “is concerned about some of the provisions in the budget that may reduce information provided to college students and take away reporting requirements. He will work with representatives from UW and the Governor’s office to determine what prompted these changes and to ensure that we provide all of the protection we reasonably can for our college students.”
Regardless of whether Walker’s proposal will eventually take effect, both male and female students the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the flagship institution of the state—are already disappointed and concerned.
Senior Marina Oliver believes removing reporting mechanism can only hurt students.
“Deleting any form of mandatory sexual assault reporting can only open up cracks for information to slip through, or allow for a cloak of ambiguity,” Oliver said in an email to The Daily Beast. “In a time when sexual assault on campus is such a painful and prevalent issue, we need way more clarity and responsibility at all levels—university, state, and federal—not less.”
While senior Conor Murphy sees Walker’s proposal as an attempt to eliminate some redundancies in reporting, he believes it will do more harm than good.
“I don’t see a reason why that has to be taken away,” Murphy said. “The negative side of this is people may then say, ‘Well, the system doesn’t do anything for me.’ You could say that the school that you’re paying thousands of dollars for is doing nothing to help prevent this.”
To Murphy, Walker’s move demonstrates his “political tone-deafness” and is a generally bad PR move.
“I think it’s just a little bit idiotic that the administration is just putting that out there being like ‘Take away the red tape,’ but at the same time, not solving anything,” Murphy said. “There’s no positive outcome to this deletion.”
Courtney Kessler, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student who is currently on leave, believes this is one of Gov. Walker’s many attempts to stir the pot. The pugnacious governor has never been one to shy away from controversy, to go head-to-head with labor unions or even stand toe-to-toe with independent investigative agencies.
“I think it’s about creating uproar in the faces of those who oppose him,” Kessler said via email. “He knows the majority of people that do oppose him will feel very strongly about his doing this. I think aside from the extreme right wing conservative show he’s putting on, he’s also using these hot button issues to distract from other changes in policy and legislation on the background.”
Alivia Richter, a senior who is also a Wisconsin native, sees Walker’s proposal as the latest in a series of disappointing measures that have damaged her home state.
“I’ve always been proud to be from Wisconsin, but in my opinion, since Scott Walker was elected governor the things that I am proud of about this state have been declining,” she said.
Richter resents what she sees as Walker’s attempt to grandstand for a possible presidential run. But she is even more upset that people don’t realize how Walker’s actions hurt her day-to-day life as a Wisconsin resident and student.
“It’s annoying to see people who say, ‘don’t worry, he is just digging himself a bigger hole for if he runs for president,’” she said. “That must come from a very privileged point of view because, even if it’s true, there is still damage that is being done to my personal health and education—and also the entire state’s wellbeing.”