The University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles.
David Butow/Redux

55 colleges facing sexual assault investigations

Updated

As part of the Obama administration’s effort to combat sexual violence at colleges and universities, the Department of Education released a list Thursday of 55 schools it is currently investigating for possibly mishandling sexual assault cases.

Schools under investigation as of May 1 include Harvard College, Emory University, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, Sarah Lawrence College, Ohio State University, and Amherst College.

According to a statement by Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine E. Lhamon, the DoE was releasing the information “in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights.”

A White House task force released their report Tuesday with recommendations, model policies, and best practices designed to help schools meet their obligations under the 1972 gender equity law. Included in the report are materials that will allow schools to conduct surveys to track rates of sexual assault on campus and gauge the attitudes of students. These surveys will be mandatory by 2016. The report also provided resources for schools to improve training methods for staff and administrators and to protect student confidentiality when reporting an assault.

Women’s rights advocates praised the move. “When students go to college they assume they’ll be safe on campus. But the Department of Education’s extensive list shows that colleges and universities across the country—including small, large, public and private—are facing Title IX sexual assault complaints,” Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement. “The Department’s decision to make this information public allows students and parents everywhere to know which schools are under investigation and track the resolution process. This critical step puts a spotlight on an issue that’s been hidden for too long.”

The only information that the department disclosed was the date an investigation began and the name of the school. Interested parties will have to request details of investigation outcomes once cases are closed and any future lists will only be available upon request. 

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The White House also announced Tuesday that a new website, Notalone.gov, would allow individuals to get information about Title IX requirements, explain how to file Title IX complaints, and provide information about schools’ histories with Title IX questions.

According to current estimates, one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, as will one in 33 men. Only 12% of sexual assault victims report their assaults to authorities.

A Title IX investigation was launched at Harvard in April after a student wrote lengthy op-ed in the student newspaper detailing extensive troubles with the administration after she was assaulted.

In the piece, the student, who remained anonymous, said of her experience, “I will be moving out of my House next semester, if only—quite literally—to save my life. You will no longer receive emails from me, asking for something to be done, pleading for someone to hear me, explaining how my grades are melting and how I have developed a mental illness as a result of your inaction. My assailant will remain unpunished, and life on this campus will continue its course as if nothing had happened. Today, Harvard, I am writing to let you know that you have won.”

Sexual Assault and Title IX

55 colleges facing sexual assault investigations

Updated