Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on campus safety. The hearing took a hard look at bullying, harassment, hazing, and violence on campuses, and it particularly focused on the needs of LGBTQ students.
One of the witnesses was Jane Clementi, the mother of the late Tyler Clementi and the founder of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Jane told the Committee the story of her son Tyler, who was a freshman at Rutgers University in 2010. Without Tyler’s knowledge, his roommate streamed video footage on the internet of Tyler in his dorm room with another male. After his roommate attempted to stream another such interaction a few days later, Tyler ended his life.
Jane implored the Committee to include the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Act in any reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This legislation would require colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact an anti-harassment policy that specifically prohibits harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. The Tyler Clementi Act was introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) – the Ranking Member of the HELP Committee – as well as Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
Sen. Baldwin asked the witnesses to explain how their schools support their LGBTQ students. Washington State University’s Dr. Melynda Huskey spoke about the unique needs of LGBTQ students at her university, sharing her perspective as a mother and a lesbian. Joseph Storch of the State University of New York system talked about their long-standing efforts to ensure that transgender students are treated with respect. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) detailed the extent of harassment of LGBTQ people on campus, and focused her questions about the need for better data collection.
This inclusive hearing was in stark contrast to a hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday promoting a deeply discriminatory piece of legislation, the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow taxpayer funded discrimination against LGBTQ people.
HRC thanks Sen. Murray – who has long been a champion for the LGBTQ community – for hosting this hearing which truly focused on the needs of vulnerable students as well as all of the Senators and witnesses who participated.