85 Colleges Are Now Under Federal Investigation For Sexual Assault Cases

10/15/2014 03:21 pm ET | Updated Oct 15, 2014
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Eighty-five higher education institutions are now under investigation due to concerns with how the schools handle sexual violence on campus, the U.S. Department of Education told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.

Of the current investigations, 55 began in 2014 and nine were added in the past two months. The Education Department began publicly disclosing its Office for Civil Rights investigations of colleges for sexual violence in May, when the overall total was 55.

The most recent schools to fall under federal scrutiny include Grand Valley State University in Michigan and Marlboro College in Vermont, which had investigations started Oct. 6; Drake University in Iowa and Valparaiso University in Indiana, both opened Oct. 3; and the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for which inquiries began Sept. 30.

Any school that receives federal funding, which is nearly all of them, is required to abide by the gender equity law Title IX. Court precedents and federal officials have established that, under Title IX, colleges must address and eliminate sexual violence and harassment on campus, regardless of whether police are involved in a case.

Investigations can arise from complaints filed against colleges or be launched proactively by the Education Department.

The student who filed a complaint against CalArts told Al Jazeera America that school officials questioned her about her drinking habits and the length of her dress when she filed formal charges with the college against her alleged rapist, and administrators asked her whether she climaxed during the assault. CalArts found the accused student responsible for sexual assault and suspended him for a year. It denied an appeal from the victim, who publicly identified herself only as "Regina," for a harsher punishment.

CalArts also did nothing to stop the accused student's classmates from harassing Regina after her report, said SurvJustice, a nonprofit survivor advocacy group that helped Regina file the complaint.

"The men who intimidated, harassed, and stalked me for reporting the assailant are in the same classes as me this semester," Regina said in an email to The Huffington Post. "If the school won't even protect me from those students, how can it promise to keep me safe when the man who raped me returns to campus?"

CalArts issued a schoolwide email addressing sexual assault on campus on Oct. 6, after the college knew it was under investigation. However, it did not tell students about the federal inquiry.

CalArts spokeswoman Margaret Crane said the school takes sexual misconduct "very seriously" and considers safety a "top priority," but said she could not provide any additional information. Crane did not say why the school didn't tell students about the investigation.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln did address its campus earlier this month about the complaint that resulted in its investigation. It insisted the school "took timely and appropriate action" in the case and noted the offender was no longer at the school.

A law student who filed a complaint against Valparaiso University in September accused the school of not informing her about interim measures it put in place for her and her alleged assailant. Valparaiso has said it can't comment on the case, but "strives to protect its students from sexual assault."

Marlboro spokesman Matthew Barone told HuffPost its investigation was the result of a complaint and the school is in the process of providing information to the OCR. Both Drake and GVSU told HuffPost their investigations were the result of complaints against the universities, and that they are both committed to ensuring their campuses are safe for students.

Schools with Title IX violations can lose federal funding, though that's never happened in higher education. OCR investigations typically result in a resolution agreement stipulating changes the school must make to address sexual and gender-based violence.

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.

OCR Sexual Violence - Open Investigations - Higher Ed - 10-15-14 by Tyler Kingkade

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