Sunday, November 17, 2013

Title IX Violations Alleged at Amherst and Vanderbilt

Last week, Amherst College in Massachusetts and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee were each alleged to have violated Title IX in they way they handled students' reports of campus sexual assault.

On Thursday, six Vanderbilt students filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.  As an example of Vanderbilt's alleged violation, one of the complainants states that the university did not take any action against the student's alleged stalker once they had pressured her into letting the school handle it rather than going to the police. That same day, two Amherst students filed a similar complaint. One of the allegations it contained is that the school responded to a report of rape by admitting the victim to a hospital psych ward while letting the accused student go unpunished. 

While Vanderbilt is a new name on the list of institutions with apparently problematic sexual assault policies and practices, Amherst has been the poster-college for this issue since last fall, when a student editorial accused the college of suppressing reporting by victims and treating accused students with leniency.  Since then, the college has been responding by revising its policies and by hiring a fill time Title IX Coordinator.  I think that OCR will look favorably on these efforts in any investigation and compliance action that might be forthcoming in response to the complaint. At the same time, the agency's involvement will likely help ensure that the changes promised by the college are both substantive and lasting.