As a campus visit from federal Title IX investigators draws nearer, Knox College has not released additional information regarding a complaint alleging that the college discriminated on the basis of sex in its handling of a sexual misconduct report.
Investigators from the regional Office for Civil Rights, a division of the Department of Education, will visit campus the week of May 19 to conduct interviews with faculty, staff and students. Though the investigation stems from the college’s handling of one particular incident, investigators will also conduct focus groups with selected students in order to review overall college policies and procedures relating to Title IX and sexual assault prevention and response.
President Teresa Amott announced the investigation in a campus-wide email Wednesday, April 30, noting that the college was first notified by OCR in January concerning a sexual misconduct incident from fall term 2013. The next day, the college was thrust into the national spotlight when the Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges and universities, including Knox, with ongoing Title IX investigations.
When asked about the timing of the two announcements last week, Amott said the college’s announcement was not meant to preempt the national press release. A report from the White House’s Task Force to Prevent Students from Sexual Assault last week, Amott said, gave some indication that a national announcement was imminent, but Knox was not explicitly given prior notice.
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.
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 Office for Civil Rights primarily responds to discrimination complaints on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age, and works to ensure Title IX compliance. A complaint can be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination by anyone who believes discrimination has occurred.
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 and conducting the site visit. OCR will communicate its decision in a letter to the complainant and recipient.
Complaints can be sent to OCR in either mail, email or on an online form. Complainants must include the complainant’s name, address, telephone and information about the person or persons injured by the discrimination. Information about the institution that committed discrimination and a description of the alleged discrimination should be included.
Though Title IX traditionally pertains to equality for women in collegiate athletics, Knox is among the schools being investigated for issues with handling sexual assault and misconduct reports.
Other institutions on the list of 55 schools are being charged with different violations of Title IX and are in various stages of investigation.
In February, over 30 current and former students from the University of California, Berkeley filed two federal complaints against the campus. Nine months prior, a federal complaint had been filed against Berkeley for violating the Clery Act.
Over 420 student representatives from the UC system have met with state legislators to lobby for several bills, including some that would clarify policies under Title IX. A state auditor will examine UC Berkeley’s response to sexual assault and harassment cases in June.