Students question Blumenthal on sexual-assault bill

New London – U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal made a stop at Mitchell College today to discuss legislation he co-authored that targets campus sexual assault. 

The senator attended a midday forum that included student resident assistants, New London Police Captain Stephen Crowley and Mitchell College faculty and staff. 

“I’m here, not so much to talk about my bill, but to listen,” said Blumenthal, explaining that he considers listening “one of my major responsibilities.” 

Students and staff provided comments on the legislation and raised questions about everything from standards for sexual assault investigations on campus to how sexual assault and consent are defined. 

While Blumenthal took some time to explain what the congressional legislation aims to do — set standards for sexual assault investigations on college and university campuses and improve reporting of sexual assault at those institutions — he also spent time explaining what the legislation can’t do. 

The bill does not define terms like “sexual assault” or “consent” because they are tricky to define and might be better left to local authorities or discussed on a case-by-case basis, Blumenthal said. The bill also stays away from assigning specific penalties for sexual assault on campus and simply requires “there must be consequences.” 

The forum was held during the process of resident assistant training at Mitchell, so staff and faculty members provided details on how sexual assault complaints are handled on the campus of approximately 800 students.

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