University Faces New Federal Title IX Investigations

University claims complaints predate stepped-up compliance.

By Katherine Vega

In February, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) opened two new investigations at the University for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. All the open cases can be found a regularly updated list of the postsecondary institutions with open Title IX sexual violence investigations, which is obtainable by request on the OCR website.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational institutions. The two cases, opened February 3, bring the total number of ongoing investigations at the University up to three. The first investigation was opened on June 28, 2013.

Information about the nature of the specific investigations is not available to the public. “Because these are open investigations, we cannot provide any further details or case-specific information,” a Department of Education spokesman said.

“The University has taken numerous steps over the last year to enhance its compliance with Title IX and to prevent and address instances of sexual misconduct. The ongoing OCR reviews are in response to complaints that predate the action the university has taken in the past year,” University spokesman Jeremy Manier said in an e-mail to The Maroon.  

“Multiple University offices collaborate in cases involving the OCR, including the Office of Legal Counsel, Campus and Student Life, and the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of the Provost,” he concluded.

Manier also referenced an e-mail sent by Provost Isaacs to students, faculty, and staff in mid-February outlining the actions the University has taken since the 2015 sexual misconduct campus climate survey. In the e-mail, Isaacs wrote that the University had instated sexual misconduct prevention training for graduate students, revamped training for first-years in the College, launched UMatter, a website with a comprehensive list of resources for survivors of sexual misconduct, and increased educational initiatives about consent.

The email also outlined future initiatives, including training for all members of the University community, the reallocation of resources in order to increase the amount of personnel reporting to the University’s Title IX coordinator, additional training for those who receive complaints, and increased transparency through an annual statistical report of sexual misconduct.

The OCR list, which was created in 2014, is the only regularly updated, comprehensive collection of which campuses are under investigation. As of February 17, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education reported that there are 205 cases under investigation for issues of sexual violence at 165 postsecondary institutions.

A 2014 press release announcing the creation of the list states that just because a University is listed does not necessarily mean that it violated the law, only that it is under investigation for a Title IX violation.