SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A local university president is pushing lawmakers to change the books when it comes to protecting students in Virginia.
To help stop sexual assaults on campuses across Virginia, Christopher Newport University President Paul Trible wants more clarity on student transcripts. He wrote a letter on September 29 to Delegate Chris Jones, saying in part, “CNU’s transcripts reflect disciplinary dismissals. There is no reason all of Virginia’s colleges and universities shouldn’t do the same.”
The rational behind such a requirement became painfully clear in the case of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, whose remains were found a month after her disappearance in September. The investigation has linked the man charged with her homicide, Jesse Matthew, to several other cases.
In 2002, Matthew was investigated for a sexual assault at Liberty University. He was expelled, but that was never put on his transcript. So, no one knew Matthew’s history when he enrolled at CNU in 2003. Soon after he began classes at the Newport News campus, Matthew was involved in a sexual assault allegation there, and left.
In November, Trible told WAVY.com, “I can’t speak to the disciplinary action that CNU undertook because I would violate federal law, but I can tell you very soon after that turn of events, Mr. Matthew was gone.”
We now know Liberty University never put the expulsion on Matthew’s transcript, but CNU did.
“CNU is one of the only schools that when someone is expelled or suspended, we actually stamp that on his or her transcript,” Trible said.
In the letter to Delegate Jones, Trible wrote, “CNU transcripts note disciplinary dismissals from the school, [that the student was] permanently dismissed for violations of the student code of conduct.”
In September, Trible asked Delegate Jones to write legislation mandating that kind of notice on transcripts for all public and private institutes in the Commonwealth.
“You would say they were permanently dismissed from the institution, and that raises a red flag for the institution that would be considering the student for entry into their institution,” Jones said. “They can pick up the phone, and say, ‘we would like more information.'”
Del. Jones has a preliminary draft of the legislation, but issues of privacy still need to be addressed.
“That’s why we are on a second raft of the bill, because you have got to address the privacy concerns of the student, but at the same time, we need to protect the public and the student body,” Jones said.
As WAVY.com reported Monday, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-VA) proposed a bill that failed in 2012, that would have mandated notification of local Commonwealth’s attorneys when sexual assaults occur on campus. She’s resubmitting the legislation in January, and now such a bill will likely pass.
“My guess, by the time we adjourn, there will be measures that pass the General Assembly and are signed by the governor. We need to make it clear we aren’t going to have that in Virginia,” Jones said.
Del. Jones said he supports Filler-Corn’s legislation. He said it just makes sense.
“It makes sense to contact the local police department and the commonwealth attorney,” Jones said. “They have more experience, I would think, from an investigative stand point, than the campus police … but we need a collaborative effort with campus police.”
Bills that failed in 2012 will likely pass in 2015. Del. Jones sees the writing on the wall, and he’s out front, along with President Trible pushing the effort to make college campuses safer.