Planet Princeton

Princeton University Among 55 Schools Under Federal Investigation Over Handling of Sexual Violence and Harassment Complaints

Nassau HallPrinceton University is among 55 higher education institutions that are under investigation by the federal government for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a list today of the higher education institutions under investigation.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. In the past, federal officials confirmed individual Title IX investigations at institutions, but today’s list is the first comprehensive look at which campuses are under review by the DOE for possible violations of the law’s requirements regarding sexual violence.

“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,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said. “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 primary goal of a Title IX investigation is to ensure that the campus is in compliance with federal law, which demands that students are not denied the ability to participate fully in educational and other opportunities due to sex, federal officials said.

The government will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation. The list includes investigations opened because of complaints received and those initiated  as compliance reviews. When an investigation concludes, the department will disclose, upon request, whether a resolution agreement has been reached to address compliance concerns at a particular campus or found insufficient evidence of a Title IX violation there.

The list of institutions under investigation for Title IX sexual violence issues will be updated regularly and made available to the public, officials said.

Releasing this list advances a key goal of President Obama’s White House Task Force to protect students from sexual assault and to bring more transparency to the federal government’s enforcement activities around this issue, officials said. Obama established the task force earlier this year with a mandate to strengthen federal enforcement efforts and provide schools with additional tools to combat sexual assault on their campuses.

As part of that work, the U.S. Education Department released updated guidance earlier this week describing the responsibilities of colleges, universities and schools receiving federal funds to address sexual violence and other forms of sex discrimination under Title IX. The guidelines provide greater clarity about the requirements of the law around sexual violence—as requested by institutions and students.

All colleges, and universities and K-12 schools receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX. Schools that violate the law and refuse to address the problems can lose federal funding or be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.

Under federal law, sexual violence refers to 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.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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