Are colleges protecting their students from sexual assault?

Some of the nations top colleges and universities–Swarthmore, Dartmouth, Occidental, University of Southern California, and University of California, Berkeley–are under investigation for underreporting sexual assault and harassment on their campuses. Current and former students have filed complaints with the U.S. Education Department, alleging that the institutions’ handling of incidents failed to comply with the Clergy Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley

The Clergy Act requires that colleges report violent acts on campus, including sexual assault, and publicly disclose safety and crime data. Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination on campus.

These complaints are the newest in a series of reports from students who claim that their school’s policies or procedures violated these acts. Last month, Yale was ordered to pay a fine of $165,000 for not reporting four cases of sex crimes almost a decade ago. UNC, Chapel Hill, Amherst, and Wesleyan have also been investigated over the last two years.

Yale

Yale

While it’s certainly a huge problem that both men and women are facing sexual assault on their campuses–places that are supposed to be safe and supportive for young people–it’s just as alarming that schools are reluctant to honestly report it.

Yale is currently disputing the fine, on the basis that the it is “unfair.”

I’d think “unfair” would feel little bit more like this student’s experience:

“For the entirety of my last year in college, I continued to live every day in fear,” Kenda Woolfson, a recent graduate, said at the news conference. “In May, I watched as my rapist shook the hand of our college’s president and received his diploma, and I wished I had not been discouraged by a dean from reporting the rape.”

Colleges that care about their students’ safety and wellbeing–not to mention their reputation–should take note. But if they don’t, I certainly hope prospective students and parents will.

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