Bloomberg News

Dartmouth, USC in Probes for Sexual Misconduct Responses

July 22, 2013

Dartmouth College

Students walk on the campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Dartmouth has long struggled with its fraternities, which have had many powerful alumni as members. Photographer: Cheryl Senter/Bloomberg

Dartmouth College and the University of Southern California are under investigation by the U.S. Education Department for their responses to campus sexual harassment and misconduct.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating the two colleges for violations of Title IX, the law that forbids gender discrimination at schools, Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the office, said in an e-mail.

The USC probe stems from a complaint students filed against the Los Angeles-based school in May, Bradshaw said. The office initiated the Dartmouth investigation -- a review of the school’s compliance with Title IX -- on its own, and won’t discuss the reason for it, he said in an e-mail.

“Compliance review sites are selected based on various sources of information, including information provided by parents, education groups, media, community organizations and the public, complaint information, and, in certain circumstances, on statistical and demographic data,” Bradshaw said.

Students at Hanover, New Hampshire-based Dartmouth filed a complaint in May that said the college has violated the Clery Act, which requires schools to report crimes, including sexual assaults, to the Education Department. The department began its probe of Dartmouth in May, and it relates to sexual harassment grievance procedures, the college’s response to sexual harassment claims and the designation and notice of a Title IX coordinator, Bradshaw said.

‘Best Practices’

Dartmouth is cooperating with the investigation and working to improve its policies and practices, said Justin Anderson, a college spokesman, in an e-mailed statement. The school has worked to decrease sexual assaults and support victims, he said.

“We strive to maintain a process for handling complaints that is fair, supportive and incorporates best practices,” Anderson said. “Beyond responding to complaints, we have worked intentionally and diligently in recent years to reduce incidents of sexual assault on campus, create a climate of reporting and support those who have come forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault.”

Known for guaranteeing female students equal access to college sports programs since its inception in 1972, Title IX has been more recently cited by women across the country saying that their schools don’t properly prevent and investigate sexual assaults and abuse. Students at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania filed a complaint in May, and the Education Department said last week that it began an inquiry.

USC Case

Tucker Reed, the USC student who led the complaint against her school, said she consulted with students and faculty at Occidental College, who filed two complaints against their campus earlier this year. Occidental is also in Los Angeles.

While USC’s policies for preventing and responding to sexual assault are sound, the school’s personnel often don’t follow them, according to Reed. She said school investigators didn’t properly handle evidence in her case, including taped conversations with her assailant.

“It seemed like a system that was very victim-oriented,” Reed said in a telephone interview. “Then, as we were going along, I saw that they kept violating their own policies.”

Reed said she was assaulted in 2010 and reported it in November 2012. She co-founded the group Student Coalition Against Rape at USC, which supports sexual assault victims.

USC has been notified of the investigation and looks forward to working with the Office for Civil Rights to review and address concerns, Jody Shipper, the university’s Title IX coordinator, said in an e-mailed statement today. The school worked with the Women Students Assembly to update sexual assault reporting guidelines in 2011-2012, she said.

“More recently, and prior to the filing of this complaint, USC began an ongoing review of policies and procedures in light of updated federal guidelines,” Shipper said. “The university remains vigilant in addressing any issues promptly and fully as they arise.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Lauerman in Boston at jlauerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net


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