Female Occidental College students, faculty and alumni say in a federal complaint that the Los Angeles school failed to take campus sex crimes seriously by improperly reporting and adjudicating sexual assaults and covering up rapes.
The 250-page complaint filed by a group of 37 Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights says the school maintained a hostile environment for sexual assault victims and their advocates and violated federal Title IX laws against sexual discrimination.
Even when the school's investigations have found wrongdoing, punishment has been light, the complaint says. One student found responsible for raping a woman was given the punishment of writing a five-page book report, according to the complaint.
"I've seen some of the outputs of these so-called 'educational sanctions' like book reports and apology letters and they're abysmal," said Danielle Dirks, a sociology professor who specializes in crime and punishment and one of the women who filed the complaint. "The fact that Occidental has invited rapists back to campus and even told survivors not to worry because 'he's reformed now' after these types of inadequate sanctions is an abomination."
Six of the women who signed on to the complaint also retained attorney Gloria Allred. Allred's office did not return emails from The Huffington Post.
The filing follows an April 1 complaint against Occidental under the Clery Act by some of the same women, alleging the school underreports campus sexual assaults, discourages victims from reporting attacks and fails to issue timely crime reports. The college was criticized in February by women who said the campus wasn't notified in a timely manner about sexual assaults.
"Sexual assault on college campuses is a nationwide problem, from which Occidental College (Oxy) regrettably is not exempt," said Jim Tranquada, the college director of communications. "We take this issue very seriously, and will not tolerate sexual misconduct.
"We readily acknowledge that Oxy has more work to do, and are vigilantly ensuring our continual progress," Tranquada said.
The women who filed the complaint have been pushing the college for six years to improve sexual assault policies. Lately, the women have been working in a group called the Occidental's Sexual Assault Coalition trying to spark a movement and posting anonymous rape survivor stories on a website.
Caroline Heldman, who helped write the complaint and chairs the college politics department, said the complaint describes reports from multiple students who say an administrator disparaged the sexual assault coalition to male athletes, saying, "Fuck 'em."
Dirks said that kind of attitude was common. She said when she became vocal about Oxy's sexual violence policies, administrators accused her of "actively seeking to embarrass the college."
Heldman said she's seen more engagement from the administration in addressing the problems "in one hour since filing these complaints than we had in the past six years."
The college has hired Gina M. Smith and Leslie Gomez of Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton to conduct a review of the college's sexual violence policies. Smith recently worked with Amherst College and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, institutions that faced similar allegations of mishandling sexual misconduct complaints.Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-331-9474 or text "loveis" to 77054 for the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
University Of Colorado - Boulder
CU-Boulder has two federal complaints against it, and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/cu-boulder-sexual-assault-investigation_n_3614277.html" target="_blank">opened one</a> for investigation.
Students at Swarthmore College <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/18/swarthmore-federal-complaint-sexual-assaults_n_3110445.html" target="_blank">filed a Title IX civil rights</a> complaint and a Clery Act complaint <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/23/sexual-assaults-mishandled-dartmouth-swarthmore_n_3321939.html?utm_hp_ref=college" target="_blank">which alleges the college </a>underreports sexual assaults and fails to respond to properly handle reports of sexual misconduct and harassment. The college promised to launch a review of their policies, and began <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/19/swarthmore-sexual-misconduct-reform_n_3624016.html" target="_blank">announcing reforms</a> in the summer of 2013.
After Angie Epifano wrote a lengthy op-ed about her experience trying to report a sexual assault at Amherst College, the school <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/amherst-college-sexual-assault-policy-review_n_2002874.html">started an internal review</a> and a revamp of their policies.
University Of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina began looking into their own policies after students and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/unc-sexual-assault_n_2488383.html">former administrator filed two complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights</a>. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/unc-sexual-assaults_n_2823522.html" target="_blank">university now has</a> three federal investigations launched by the Education Department, including one into whether the university <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/07/unc-investigation-retaliation_n_3555886.html" target="_blank">retaliated against </a>one of the complainants.
University Of Montana
Update: The DOJ found the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/09/university-of-montana-rape_n_3247466.html" target="_blank"> university botched rape </a>reports. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/02/feds-examine-response-to-_0_n_1470286.html">May 12, 2012 </a>report from AP: MISSOULA, Mont. -- The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the way Missoula police, prosecutors and the University of Montana have responded to reports of sexual assault and harassment after the agency learned of complaints that cases were not being properly handled. The investigation was disclosed Tuesday after a preliminary examination conducted earlier this year concluded there was enough evidence to move ahead with a full probe, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said. Lawyers from the Justice Department's civil rights division will look at all 80 sexual assaults reported by women in Missoula over the past three years. Eleven sexual assaults involving university students have been reported in the past 18 months. Prosecutors were trying to figure out whether those university complaints were included in the total number of citywide assaults reported.
Oklahoma State Sexual Assault Reporting - Reviewed By University Task Force
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oklahoma-state-sexual-assault-report_n_2317687.html">Dec. 17, 2012</a>: <blockquote>It took nearly a month for Oklahoma State University officials to tell police that a single student had been accused by several others of sexual assault, prompting confusion and outrage over the lengthy delay. On Thursday, OSU President Burns Hargis announced he asked the Board of Regents' task force to review the school's handling of the sexual assault complaints. The task force was formed in July to review school policies and ensure a situation like the Sandusky scandal at Penn State does not unfold at OSU. Hargis said in a statement that OSU "cannot leave any doubt that we are indeed properly and appropriately handling sexual misconduct allegations," Tulsa World reports.</blockquote>
University Of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame Under Federal Review After Second Family Complains About Assault Allegations Mishandle <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/19/university-of-notre-dame-_n_825396.html">Feb. 19, 2011</a>: <blockquote>The University of Notre Dame has been placed under federal review by the U.S. Department of Education following two incidents of reported sexual assault that occurred this academic year.</blockquote>
Two years after the Ivy League school went under a federal investigation, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/yale-sexual-assault-punishment_n_3690100.html" target="_blank">students and alumni once again say</a> the university fails to properly <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/yale-sexual-assault-punishment_n_3786885.html" target="_blank">handle sexual assaults</a> and harassment. <a href="http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/06/15/yale-settles-charges-of-sexual-discrimination/#ixzz2Ly8bXen3">June 15, 2012 report from Time magazine</a>: <blockquote>The Department of Education announced on Friday that it had resolved a complaint that Yale University had failed to eliminate sexual discrimination on campus. The complaint, filed by a group of 16 current and former students in March 2011, stemmed from an incident on campus on the evening of Oct. 13, 2010, in which members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity marched across the Yale campus to a dorm where many female students lived and chanted “No means yes! Yes means anal!” A video of the chanting men was posted online and quickly went viral, spurring an uproar at the university and nationwide.</blockquote> Yale <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/15/yale-clery-act_n_3280195.html" target="_blank">was fined $165,000 </a>by the feds.
Southern Methodist University -- Launches Task Force After String Of Sexual Assaults Reported
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/12/southern-methodist-sexual-assaults_n_1959302.html">Oct. 12, 2012 report</a> from HuffPost: <blockquote>Two students in separate cases were arrested last month on sexual assault charges. However, it raised eyebrows as people noted it took eight months to bring charges in one case while only a few days in the other. In response to the controversy, SMU announced a special task force to review how the school handles reports of sexual violence. Administrative action aside, problems persist on the Texas campus. On Wednesday, just a day before the first task force meeting, students received a crime alert warning of another sexual assault; this one allegedly targeting a young woman in her apartment west of campus by an acquaintance and fellow SMU student. The incident became the fifth sexual assault reported this year and the third in the past six weeks to go under investigation by University Park police. At least 40 sexual assaults were reported since 2006, according to the SMU Daily Campus, and almost all of them from SMU students. Over the past 25 years, more than 100 women at SMU reported being sexually assaulted.</blockquote>