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U.S. Senators urge Power 5 commissioners to enhance sexual violence policies

A group of U.S. Senators is urging the Power 5 conference commissioners to further examine how they address sexual violence within their members' athletic programs.

Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on Thursday sent a letter to ACC commissioner John Swofford, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, asking them to "stand up for the thousands of young people who experience sexual violence on campus by cultivating a culture of safety, accountability and respect for students' rights."

The letter, signed by Wyden, Merkley and six other senators, comes in response to the NCAA ending its Commission to Combat Sexual Violence in August, two years after the commission was launched. The senators write that the NCAA's board of governors dissolved the commission without implementing meaningful reforms, such as preventing athletes with a history of sexual misconduct from transferring between top conferences.

Leagues like the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12, and schools like Indiana University already have implemented policies banning transfers with a history of misconduct.

The senators ask the commissioners to address six sets of questions relating to what each league has done to reduce rates of sexual violence by college athletes. The letter asks how the league approaches incoming student-athletes or transfers with serious misconduct or sexual assault records, and whether they inform future transfer destinations of an athlete's past. The senators also ask how leagues handle background checks and student privacy rights.

"We believe that participation in athletics is a privilege, not a right, and that student-athletes who perpetrate serious misconduct must be held accountable," Sens. Wyden and Merkley write in the letter.