Calling it a step toward transparency, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on Thursday released a list of 55 colleges and universities under investigation for alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment reports.
The University of Montana was checked off the list in 2012 when the departments of Justice and Education concluded their investigation into the school’s handling of cases dating back to 2009.
The investigation ended when UM signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal agencies and agreed to take certain steps to correct the problem. The school’s enrollment dipped as a partial result of the investigation and, for a time, it was mockingly billed as “rape nation.”
Yet Thursday’s list – the first of its kind released by the DOE – reveals the scope of the problem facing campuses across the country and the possible mishandling of cases by some institutions.
The list comes just days after the White House released guidelines to help colleges and universities address the problem of sexual assault. National figures suggest one in five women will be raped while in college.
While falling on the federal list ramps up the scrutiny institutions are under, Kim Brown Campbell, the new campus assault prevention coordinator at UM, said it’s not necessarily a negative thing.
UM emerged from its investigation with new protocols, procedures and programs in place to help stem the problem. Many of the efforts were implemented more than a year ago.
However, recent steps have included the UM Office of Public Safety, which received approval from the DOJ and is ready to release its new rape investigation and response procedures, as well as its new training protocols.
Measures gleaned from the White House report on “bringing in the bystander” will also be put in place at both the Mountain Campus and Missoula College this fall. Brown Campbell’s position as the assault prevention coordinator is being funded through a DOJ grant.
“A lot of good came from the investigation,” she said. “I feel we can serve as some type of model that can help other campuses.”
Thursday’s list didn’t include any schools from Montana, though it did include those from surrounding states. The University of Idaho is on the list, along with the University of Colorado, Washington State University and Minot State University in North Dakota.
The 55 colleges and universities are being investigated for alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases under Title IX and have not yet been found to have violated the law. Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and by institutions that receive federal money.
Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel and director of equal opportunities in athletics for the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., said Thursday that while the investigations play out, the new DOE report and White House guidelines could help spur national dialogue.
“Anything to help draw attention to the issue and raise awareness of the rights of students and the responsibilities of institutions under Title IX is a good thing,” Chaudhry said. “The legal requirements aren’t new, but the emphasis the DOE and the White House are placing on this is warranted, given how many cases we’re seeing.”
Peggy Kuhr, vice president of integrated communications at UM, said the scrutiny placed on UM during the federal investigation resulted in rigorous public dialogue and improvements to campus protocol.
“There are benefits to the whole process and benefits to going through the investigation and reaching a cooperative agreement,” Kuhr said. “By putting an emphasis on this topic of campus sexual assault, it allows for the community to have a conversation for starters about a difficult topic.”
The complete list from the DOE release.
AZ- Arizona State University
CA - Butte-Glen Community College District
CA - Occidental College
CA University of California-Berkeley
CA University of Southern California
CO Regis University
CO University of Colorado at Boulder
CO University of Colorado at Denver
CO University of Denver
CT University of Connecticut
DC Catholic University of America
FL Florida State University
GA Emory University
HI University of Hawaii at Manoa
ID University of Idaho
IL Knox College
IL University of Chicago
IN Indiana University-Bloomington
IN Vincennes University
MA Amherst College
MA Boston University
MA Emerson College
MA Harvard College
MA Harvard University Law School
MA University of Massachusetts-Amherst
MD Frostburg State University
MI Michigan State University
MI University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
NC Guilford College
NC University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
ND Minot State University
NH Dartmouth College
NJ Princeton University
NY Cuny Hunter College
NY Hobart and William Smith Colleges
NY Sarah Lawrence College
NY Suny at Binghamton
OH Denison University
OH Ohio State University
OH Wittenberg University
OK Oklahoma State University
PA Carnegie Mellon University
PA Franklin and Marshall College
PA Pennsylvania State University
PA Swarthmore College
PA Temple University
TN Vanderbilt University
TX Southern Methodist University
TX The University of Texas-Pan American
VA College of William and Mary
VA University of Virginia
WA Washington State University
WI University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
WV Bethany College
WV West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine