55 Schools Face Federal Investigation for Handling of Sexual Assault

When it comes to policing themselves, disclosing their records, or even exhibiting common sense, U.S. colleges and universities have demonstrated a woeful pattern of failure to investigate or punish perpetrators of sexual assault. And few schools, no matter how sterling their academic reputation, seem to be immune. Well publicized cases at Brown, Occidental, Dartmouth and Amherst, to name a few, have recently made headlines. So, on Thursday, the U.S. Education Department took matters into its own hands, releasing the names of 55 colleges and universities that are currently facing Title IX investigation for their handling of sexual abuse complaints. The government also said it would keep an ongoing, updated list of schools being investigated, which will be available on request.

President Obama has recently stated his concern about the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, and formed a White House task force to ensure greater transparency about sexual assault in higher education.

According to AP, the schools on the list included large state universities, like University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ohio State and Arizona State. Small schools also appear on the list, like Knox College in Illinois and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, not to mention Ivy Leaguers like Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth.

Until now, students at the listed schools have been unaware that these investigations are happening.

"We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue," Catherine E Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement.

She hastened to add that just because a school is on the list does not mean it has been found to have violated any laws, just that it is being investigated.

Title IX is the law that prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

The White House has estimated that 1 in 5 female students is sexually assaulted during her college career. Many complain of ill treatment at the hands of the administration when they report these crimes. Many, it seems all too likely, don't even bother to report them, leaving college rapists to rape again, possibly with impunity. In his new book "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power," Jimmy Carter addresses the epidemic of college sexual assault, citing U.S. Justice Department statistics that 95 percent of assaults go unreported. He also writes that "most on-campus rapes are perpetrated by serial rapists, who can safely assume their crimes will not be revealed."

The government website is called notalone.gov and it offers resources for victims as well as information about past actions that the college has taken when dealing with sexual assault complaints. According to AP: "The task force also made a wide range of recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses."

Furthermore, the Education Department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with the law, but, as AP notes, it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.

Non-compliance is far too common, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskil, have said, adding that the lack of federal resources has been partly to blame for that.

Here is a link to the full list of schools being investigated.

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