Department of Education Launches Investigation Into College Sexual-Assault Complaints

By Julissa Catalan


The U.S. Department of Education announced on Thursday that 55 colleges and universities are under investigation for illegally handling sexual-violence and harassment complaints.

Though these types of reviews have been known about before, this is the first time the agency has released a list of specific institutions under investigation.

“We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” said the department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine E. Lhamon. “We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university’s appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law.”

The institutions under investigation are (listed in alphabetical order, according to state):

Arizona: Arizona State University

California: Butte-Glen Community College District

California: Occidental College

California: University of California-Berkeley

California: University of Southern California

Colorado: Regis University

Colorado: University of Colorado Boulder

Colorado: University of Colorado at Denver

Colorado: University of Denver

Connecticut: University of Connecticut

District of Columbia: Catholic University of America

Florida: Florida State University

Georgia: Emory University

Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa

Idaho: University of Idaho

Illinois: Knox College

Illinois: University of Chicago

Indiana: Indiana University-Bloomington

Indiana: Vincennes University

Massachusetts: Amherst College

Massachusetts: Boston University

Massachusetts: Emerson College

Massachusetts: Harvard College

Massachusetts: Harvard University-Law School

Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Maryland: Frostburg State University

Michigan: Michigan State University

Michigan: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

North Carolina: Guilford College

North Carolina: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

North Dakota: Minot State University

New Hampshire: Dartmouth College

New Jersey: Princeton University

New York: CUNY Hunter College

New York: Hobart and William Smith Colleges

New York: Sarah Lawrence College

New York: SUNY at Binghamton

Ohio: Denison University

Ohio: Ohio State University

Ohio: Wittenberg University

Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University

Pennsylvania: Carnegie Mellon University

Pennsylvania: Franklin and Marshall College

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania: Swarthmore College

Pennsylvania: Temple University

Tennessee: Vanderbilt University

Texas: Southern Methodist University

Texas: The University of Texas-Pan American

Virginia: College of William and Mary

Virginia: University of Virginia

Washington: Washington State University

West Virginia: Bethany College

West Virginia: West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

The Department of Education defines sexual violence and harassment as “physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent—including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.”

A number of schools immediately released public statements to CNN showing their support for the investigation.

“Much has been done to strengthen the campus’ handling of these issues, but we understand that there is always room for improvement,” UC-Berkeley officials said, adding that the school will cooperate with the investigation and that the university’s chancellor had sent out a campus memo stating sexual assault would not be tolerated.

The University of Chicago said in a statement that it “made every effort to comply with the spirit and letter of this inquiry” and is “committed to ensuring that its programs and work environment are discrimination free.”

Meanwhile, the University of Colorado-Boulder said it had already been notified of the investigation back in July and that the school has since hired a law firm to conduct a thorough review. It will also be hiring its own Title IX director before the beginning of the next school year.

Washington State University officials were notified of a federal complaint in January 2013. Since then, they have been more than cooperative in improving the school’s policies. In February, federal representatives visited the campus and conducted focus groups and student/employee interviews. “There has been no finding of any wrongdoing on the part of WSU. We are still waiting to hear from OCR [Office of Civil Rights] regarding participation in the voluntary resolution process,” a university statement read.

Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater said that sexual assault is a very serious matter, and that the school provides victims with assistance and resources. It then said it could not comment any further as the investigation is pending.

The investigations are based of Title IX—a U.S. Department of Education amendment which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The Department of Education said making the list public “advances a key goal of President Obama’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to bring more transparency to the federal government’s enforcement activities around this issue.”

New departmental guidelines outlining the responsibilities of federally funded schools in relation to sexual violence and other forms of discrimination were also released this week. All schools—from kindergarten programs to high schools to universities—must comply with the Title IX policies or risk losing funding and facing Justice Department action.

The U.S. Department of Education said the list will be updated regularly and available to the public upon request.

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