Updated: 2:40 p.m. Thursday
President Teresa Amott has told TKS that Wednesday’s announcement concerning a sex-based discrimination investigation of Knox College was not meant to preempt a national announcement on Thursday.
The Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges and universities Thursday morning naming those schools under Title IX investigations. The list includes Knox College.
Amott said that though a White House report earlier this week from its Task Force to Prevent Students from Sexual Assault showed some indication that a national announcement might come soon, the college was not given prior notice of the Education Department’s announcement Thursday.
Amott stressed that the site visit from Title IX investigators is public, and she said the college would have made its announcement regardless of Thursday’s news from the White House.
On Wednesday, the college disclosed that since January it has been under investigation regarding alleged sex-based discrimination by the regional Office for Civil Rights, a federal agency under the Department of Education.
The investigation is specific to a report of sexual misconduct that occurred during fall term 2013. OCR investigators will visit campus the week of May 19 to interview college officials and selected students regarding the allegations.
According to Amott, the college did not announce the investigation until specific dates were scheduled.
“We’ve been working with the Office of Civil Rights on all the particulars of the site visit like scheduling the date and scheduling the individuals with whom they wish to speak,” Amott said. “We thought it was premature to release any information until those details have been confirmed.”
The students of the Sexual Assault Resource Reform Coalition, or SARRC, emailed TKS a statement Thursday on the Title IX investigation.
“The student members of the Sexual Assault Resource Reform Coalition (SARRC) are so inspired by the person(s) who had the bravery to share their experiences and directly work to make this campus safer by filing a federal complaint,” SARRC student members wrote. “Because we see this as an area that requires improvement at Knox College, we see the OCR’s involvement on our campus as absolutely necessary.”
OCR is a division of the Department of Education that primarily responds to discrimination complaints and works to ensure Title IX compliance. Though the investigation was prompted by a specific incident, investigators will determine later this month whether the scope of their investigation should be broadened to an institutional level.
Knox isn’t the only school to face investigations by the agency. As of January, OCR had 39 pending Title IX investigations — all surrounding alleged sexual violence in postsecondary institutions — according to Newsweek. In 2013, 23 complaints were filed with OCR with regard to the Clery Act, and it ultimately charged eight different fines amounting to $1.45 million. The Clery Act requires disclosure of campus crime.
According to the Department of Education, OCR will generally conduct investigations on cases it believes can be legally investigated and are filed on time. The investigation of a complaint can consist of a variety of “fact-finding techniques,” including reviewing documents, conducting interviews and visiting sites, and OCR will communicate its decision in a letter to the complainant and recipient.
Investigations usually result in a voluntary resolution agreement that will “remedy the identified violation(s) in compliance with applicable civil rights laws.”
In 2013, OCR passed three compliance reviews as they pertained to Title IX and sexual harassment on college campuses. In 2011, Yale University was fined $155,000 after a yearlong investigation decided that Yale had failed to adhere to the Clery Act.
In anticipation of the investigation, Knox is launching a campus climate survey to understand how Knox students understand and respond to sexual violence. Recent initiatives launched by the new Title IX team include “campus-wide educational events, bystander intervention training, a confidential support group for survivors,” as Amott mentioned in her email. Knox has also opened a search for a counselor for violence prevention and educational outreach.