WSU, UI ON ASSAULT LISTING Sexual Violence Reports Investigated at 55 Colleges

By Groves, Patrick | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), May 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

WSU, UI ON ASSAULT LISTING Sexual Violence Reports Investigated at 55 Colleges


Groves, Patrick, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)


Sexual violence complaints leveled against Washington State University and the University of Idaho have put both schools on the list of 55 colleges and universities that are being investigated for how they handled reports of assault.

Attorneys from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights visited both campuses in late February.

The sweeping investigations come amid calls for transparency - from the White House down to student groups - onhow the universities deal with sexual assault as more complaints are filed.

The 55 schools being investigated range from some of the largest state universities to Ivy League schools and small private colleges.

They include some of the best known and largest public universities in the country including University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Ohio State University, to Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton.

Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University and Whitworth University were not on the list of schools investigated.

WSU is under investigation for not meeting response and investigation standards as required by Title IX, the federal law best known for guaranteeing equal access to sports for girls and women but that also protects a student's right to a safe education free from discrimination.

The complaint accuses WSU of not investigating sexual violence cases. Furthermore, it alleges that administrators discouraged victims from reporting and that they purposefully delayed investigations.

"The lack of timely, professional, and appropriate investigation harms students andviolates their civil rights," according to the complaint released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

WSU officials said the school "does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct.Complaints are investigated promptly, and appropriate steps are taken to stop discriminatory behavior, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects."

Spokeswoman Kathy Barnard added: "WSU takes these issues very seriously.We have proactively and continue to proactively work to improve our programs and processes in this area. Although we know our programs and processes are strong, there is always room for improvement. We will work with (the Office of Civil Rights) to ensure that what we do at WSU is in line with best practices nationally."

At Idaho, the investigation centers on a complaint by a female student who said she was drugged, raped and choked by a male student during an off-campus fraternity function in September 2012.

UI is accused of"failing to adequately respond" to her complaint and failing to make accommodations for the student, according to government documents.

"I believe that by enrolling this dangerous man into the university and having him around sorority girls as well as another major university only eight miles away that they are putting other girls in danger," the woman said in the complaint.

Moscow police said there is no police report related to the alleged incident.

Civil rights investigators contacted Idaho in April 2013 regarding the complaint. "The UI takes all complaints of assault very seriously and remains intolerant of sexual harassment, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct," Bruce Pitman, Idaho's dean of students, said in the statement. "The UI is steadfast in its commitment to investigate all complaints as quickly as possible and to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to stop discriminatory behavior, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects."

Pitman said his office has been reorganized to better handle cases of sexual violence, including the hiring of a full-time employee to investigate violations of the Student Code of Conduct and then present the findings to a hearing panel. The coordinator also serves on teams that investigate sexual misconduct allegations.

Among other changes, students are now required to complete an online training course to raise awareness of sexual misconduct and drug and alcohol abuse.

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WSU, UI ON ASSAULT LISTING Sexual Violence Reports Investigated at 55 Colleges
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