According to a report published on Jezebel Friday morning, "Scott Walker Wants Colleges to Stop Reporting Sexual Assaults."
As with most budget items, it's more complicated than that.
An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released on Thursday detailed a provision in Gov. Scott Walker's biennial budget that would delete language related to sexual assault information and reporting for colleges in the University of Wisconsin System.
The provision deletes requirements for colleges to provide new students with information about sexual assault, for university employees to report sexual assaults to the dean of students and for each institution to report statistics on sexual assaults to the Department of Justice.
The Jezebel article paints the move as "the first of many boxes" Walker will check on his "CONSERVATIVE STRONG MAN" card as he eyes a 2016 presidential bid.
That section of the governor's budget is one of 33 provisions related to the UW System that the budget would delete as part of an effort to grant greater autonomy to the UW System. The move toward autonomy is coupled with a $300 million budget cut.
According to the LFB analysis, "In most cases, the UW System Authority Board of Regents would have the authority to take the actions described (in each provision) although the Board would no longer be specifically required or authorized to do so by law."
Most of the portions proposed for removal are duplicative of federal requirements the UW System already complies with and will continue to follow, said UW System spokesman Alex Hummel.
The governor's office further clarified that removing the duplicative report does not make any change to state or federal laws regarding the reporting of crimes.
"State statute changes were required to give UW System full authority status and the UW System requested the deletion of provisions of duplicative reporting requirements as part of the move to the authority," said Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick in an email. "In this case, UW System requested this report requirement be removed because there is already a federal reporting requirement related to sexual assault and harassment on campuses."
Patrick added that Walker's last budget increased funding for sexual assault victim services, and his 2015-17 budget proposal would increase funding to protect victims and their families.
"Throughout his time in office, Governor Walker has made protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault a top priority," Patrick said.
The governor's office pointed to Marquette University's policy governing employees' duty to report crimes, including sexual misconduct, as an example of a policy guided by state and federal law.
Two federal laws — the Clery Act and Title IX — and one state statute govern the reporting of crimes in Wisconsin. Those laws would continue to apply to any policy developed by the proposed UW System Authority, Patrick said.
Still, the optics of deleting requirements for sexual assault reporting set off a firestorm on the left.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff questioned whether the deletion was "another so-called 'drafting error.'"
"One in four college women will be sexually assaulted during our academic careers — this is a serious issue that deserves more time and resources from politicians like Scott Walker, not less," Baldauff said in an email.
Jenni Dye, research director for One Wisconsin Now and former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, said the proposal is another example of how "irresponsible" Walker's two-year budget is.
Dye pointed to other requests from the UW that Walker denied in his budget and voiced surprise that a governor who frequently balks at leaving things to the federal government would approve such a change.
"Gov. Walker had no problem rejecting other parts of UW's budget request, and he's had no problem in the past telling us we can't rely on the federal government to be there for Wisconsinites," Dye said. "When it comes to sexual assault on college campuses, Walker is sending a message that he doesn't care enough to be involved and is happy to turn over control to campuses and the federal government."
Hummel noted that the UW System has an ongoing commitment to examining and strengthening its efforts to address sexual violence and harassment on campus. He pointed to the formation of a UW System Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment in September 2014.
"The state statutory changes in no way lessen our commitment. They allow us to focus on one report," Hummel said in an email. "Many requirements proposed for removal from state statutes are duplicative of federal requirements and reporting standards we comply with and are deeply committed to, such as those within The Clery Act and Title IX. The related practices, services and values are embedded within our institutions. The UW System and the Board of Regents will continue examining how they best fit and carry on within the proposed UW System Authority."
UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said the campus remains committed to addressing the issue of sexual assault and points to the federal requirements outlined in the Clery Act.
"Chapter 36.11(22) has two main components: Reporting and training," said Lucas in a statement. "For years, UW has been required by both state law and the federal Clery Act to report sexual assault and provide training. Even with any deletion of 36.11(22), UW remains obligated by Clery to report sexual assaults and would continue to provide training to employees and students."
Coincidentally, UW-Madison's Center for the Humanities is sponsoring a panel discussion Monday titled, "Confronting Campus Rape." The discussion — 5:30 pm in the DeLuca Forum at the Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard Street — will involve university culture and policy, pedagogy and the student experience.