UM isn't among colleges under investigation for mishandling sexual assaults

2014-05-02T09:42:00Z 2014-06-09T17:30:06Z UM isn't among colleges under investigation for mishandling sexual assaultsBy MARTIN KIDSTON Missoulian The Billings Gazette
May 02, 2014 9:42 am  • 

Calling it a step toward transparency, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on Thursday released a list of 55 colleges and universities under investigation for alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment reports.

The University of Montana was checked off the list in 2012 when the departments of Justice and Education concluded their investigation into the school’s handling of cases dating back to 2009.

The investigation ended when UM signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal agencies and agreed to take certain steps to correct the problem. The school’s enrollment dipped as a partial result of the investigation and, for a time, it was mockingly billed as “rape nation.”

Yet Thursday’s list — the first of its kind released by the Education Department — reveals the scope of the problem facing campuses across the country and the possible mishandling of cases by some institutions.

The list comes just days after the White House released guidelines to help colleges and universities address the problem of sexual assault. National figures suggest one in five women will be raped while in college.

Beneficial investigations

While falling on the federal list ramps up the scrutiny institutions are under, Kim Brown Campbell, the new campus assault prevention coordinator at UM, said it’s not necessarily a negative thing.

UM emerged from its investigation with new protocols, procedures and programs in place to help stem the problem. Many of the efforts were implemented more than a year ago.

However, recent steps have included the UM Office of Public Safety, which received approval from the Justice Department and is ready to release its new rape investigation and response procedures, as well as its new training protocols.

Measures gleaned from the White House report on “bringing in the bystander” will also be put in place at both the Mountain Campus and Missoula College this fall. Brown Campbell’s position as the assault prevention coordinator is being funded through a Justice Department grant.

“A lot of good came from the investigation,” she said. “I feel we can serve as some type of model that can help other campuses.”

Regional schools

Thursday’s list didn’t include any schools from Montana, though it did include those from surrounding states. The University of Idaho is on the list, along with the University of Colorado, Washington State University and Minot State University in North Dakota.

The 55 colleges and universities are being investigated for alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases under Title IX and have not yet been found to have violated the law. Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and by institutions that receive federal money.

Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel and director of equal opportunities in athletics for the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., said Thursday that while the investigations play out, the new Education Department report and White House guidelines could help spur national dialogue.

“Anything to help draw attention to the issue and raise awareness of the rights of students and the responsibilities of institutions under Title IX is a good thing,” Chaudhry said. “The legal requirements aren’t new, but the emphasis the DOE and the White House are placing on this is warranted, given how many cases we’re seeing.”

Peggy Kuhr, vice president of integrated communications at UM, said the scrutiny placed on UM during the federal investigation resulted in rigorous public dialogue and improvements to campus protocol.

“There are benefits to the whole process and benefits to going through the investigation and reaching a cooperative agreement,” Kuhr said. “By putting an emphasis on this topic of campus sexual assault, it allows for the community to have a conversation for starters about a difficult topic.”

The complete list from the Education Department release:

Arizona — Arizona State University

California — Butte-Glen Community College District; Occidental College; University of California-Berkeley; University of Southern California

Colorado — Regis University; University of Colorado at Boulder; University of Colorado at Denver; University of Denver

Connecticut — University of Connecticut

D.C. — Catholic University of America

Florida — Florida State University

Georgia — Emory University

Hawaii — University of Hawaii at Manoa

Idaho — University of Idaho

Illinois — Knox College; University of Chicago

Indiana — Indiana University-Bloomington; Vincennes University

Massachusetts — Amherst College; Boston University; Emerson College; Harvard College; Harvard University Law School; University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Maryland — Frostburg State University

Michigan — Michigan State University; University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

North Carolina — Guilford College; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

North Dakota — Minot State University

New Hampshire — Dartmouth College

New Jersey — Princeton University

New York — Cuny Hunter College; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Sarah Lawrence College; Suny at Binghamton

Ohio — Denison University; Ohio State University; Wittenberg University

Oklahoma — Oklahoma State University

Pennsylvania — Carnegie Mellon University; Franklin and Marshall College; Pennsylvania State University; Swarthmore College; Temple University

Tennessee — Vanderbilt University

Texas — Southern Methodist University; The University of Texas-Pan American

Virginia — College of William and Mary; University of Virginia

Washington — Washington State University

Wisconsin — University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

West Virginia — Bethany College; West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

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