A federal investigation has found that Occidental College in Southern California did not violate gender equity law Title IX despite dozens of sex assault complaints from students and alumni, however, adminstrators agreed to make several reforms.
The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights found insufficient evidence that Occidental violated Title IX, except for delays in the review of several cases during the 2012-2013 school year, officials announced Thursday.
The federal investigation began three years ago, after 37 students, alumni, and faculty filed a complaint alleging Occidental mishandled reports of sexual assault, including lax punishments for perpetrators and retaliatory conduct against sexual assault awareness advocates.
Federal investigators, however, "found insufficient evidence that the college engaged in retaliatory conduct against the individual students and faculty who advocated for changes in the college's sexual misconduct policies and procedures," according to an OCR statement.
The complaints also allege that school officials lightly punished students for sexual assault, including a claim that a student found responsible for rape was ordered to write a five-page book report as punishment.
OCR's investigation determined the college gave appropriate sanctions as some offenders were expelled, suspended, or put on probation.
OCR did determine that some school investigations took longer than 60 days — the timeframe recommended by the Department of Education.
Officials also noted that a recent climate survey conducted by Occidental suggested that students are not reporting complaints of sexual assault.
The college's president, Jonathan Veitch, said in a statement that adminstrators would press on with reforms to "change campus culture."
The close of this investigation does not mean an end to our efforts to make Oxy safe for all of our students.
We have made significant progress in addressing the problem of sexual assault on campus, but there is much more that we need to do as a community to encourage survivors to come forward and to change campus culture to prevent sexual assault from occurring.
Doing what's required by the law doesn't go far enough for Occidental. We want to continue to improve and do what's best for our students and our community.
As part of the resolution between the Department of Education and Occidental, the school has agreed to fix the areas of concern, including making revisions to its sexual misconduct policy and developing mandatory annual training for staff on how to properly implement Title IX policies.
"OCR's investigation found a campus actively engaged in important work to satisfy Title IX responsibilities for all students," Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights said in a statement. "Where we had concerns, Occidental leaders committed to taking appropriate steps to ensure student safety."
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Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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