Metro
    Next Score View the next score

    Most federal sexual cases against colleges dropped

    Citing tardy filing, US often rejects allegations of mishandling sexual violence complaints

    Over the past decade, federal investigators have dropped nearly three-quarters of the allegations against colleges accused of mishandling complaints of sexual violence on their campuses, often because the complaints are filed too long after the incident.

    Of the 118 investigations closed between 2004 and 2014, 87 cases were shut because the allegations could not be proved, for late filing, or administrative reasons, according to a Globe analysis of data from the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, the agency that conducts investigations into discrimination related to sexual violence on college campuses.

    The figures shed light on the outcome of the allegations at a time of heightened awareness of campus sexual violence. The number of sexual violence-related investigations opened each year has increased steadily over the past decade, from a single case in 2004 to 17 in 2012, 32 in 2013, and 102 last year.

    Advertisement

    Some activists said the data showing the number of closed cases suggest that the Education Department is not doing enough to hold colleges accountable.

    Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
    The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    “It reminds us how much of the burden to solve this problem is on the backs of survivors,” said Andrea Pino, who cofounded the national advocacy group End Rape on Campus, which since its start in 2013 has helped students report to the department more than two dozen cases of colleges allegedly mishandling sexual violence claims.

    Denise Horn, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said officials are “working aggressively to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe and healthy environment.”

    “Let there be no mistake: Sexual violence has no place in society and especially no place in our nation’s schools or on our nation’s college campuses,” she said in an e-mail.

    Sexual violence cases are governed by Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any federally funded education program or activity. It requires colleges to address sexual violence on campus, including following proper steps to investigate claims of assault.

    Advertisement

    “Title IX is one of the few options you have to hold your school accountable,” said Pino, 23, who said she was raped while a student at the University of North Carolina. “It’s been a cornerstone of the activism movement in the past several years. But it’s also been a hypocrisy.”

    In Massachusetts, seven different colleges faced a total of 11 investigations between 2004 and 2014.

    Two of those investigations were dismissed because too much time had passed between when the alleged violations occurred and when they were reported to the Education Department.

    In five other cases, investigations were closed because the allegations were being investigated elsewhere, because there was insufficient evidence, or because the person who reported the alleged wrongdoing did not give permission when asked by the Education Department to proceed with the investigation.

    In four cases, the colleges reached a resolution agreement with the department during or after the investigation.

    Advertisement

    Ten Massachusetts schools are facing investigations: Amherst College; Berklee College of Music; Boston University; Brandeis University; Emerson College; Hampshire College; Harvard University; Northeastern University; the University of Massachusetts Amherst; and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

    The data the Globe reviewed were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Boston-based public records website MuckRock, and subsequently analyzed by the Globe. The data included cases that were resolved as of the end of last year.

    The most common reason cases at colleges across the country were closed was that too much time had passed between when the alleged violations occurred and when they were reported to the Education Department, which generally does not investigate allegations more than 180 calendar days old.

    Colby Bruno, an attorney at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, a nonprofit that gives free legal services to sexual assault victims, said she was surprised by the findings from the Globe’s review.

    “If a quarter of complainants are not able to report that their school has problems because of what seems to be an arbitrary deadline, then maybe we should look at a way to change that,” said Bruno, referring to the Education Department’s 180-day deadline for filing complaints.

    Bruno said she expects to see a decline in the percentage of cases dropped due to administrative reasons or other apparent technicalities because in recent years an increasing number of students have turned to lawyers, often on a pro bono basis, to help them file Title IX complaints.

    “I have every expectation that all of the open cases will reach agreements, where there are violations,” she said.

    The Education Department has said its investigations have found that some colleges have retaliated against victims of sexual assault for filing reports with the department and delayed investigations. The department has also uncovered instances in which administrators determined that a student had raped a fellow student, but school officials allowed the alleged perpetrator to remain at the school, only to find out that the offending student subsequently raped another classmate.

    As of Wednesday, the Education Department was investigating 112 additional cases at 105 colleges nationwide. Last May, the department, as part of a White House push to hold colleges more accountable for how they handle sexual assault, took the unprecedented step of naming every college in the country involved in an active case. At that time, 55 schools were named; the list has grown substantially since.

    Fourteen of the 118 investigations nationally between 2004 and 2014 ended with the accused college reaching an agreement with the department after the school was found to be out of compliance. In 15 other cases, the department and the college reached mutual accord before the investigation was completed, and in two other instances, colleges quickly resolved the matter with the individual or individuals who alleged the wrongdoing.

    Eleven colleges faced two sexual violence-related investigations between 2004 and 2014, while five schools faced three such investigations. The rest were investigated just once during that span.

    On average, it has taken the department 229 days to resolve each case.

    The office says its goal is to complete investigations within 180 days, but notes that investigations about sexual violence can be delicate and complex and the process typically involves not just investigating a complaint specific to a small number of students, but also looking at the campuswide culture, policies, and other systemic issues related to sexual violence.

    Officials have said steps have been taken recently to reduce how long investigations take.

    Schools found to be violating the rules around handling complaints of sexual violence could face punishment as severe as losing their federal funding or having the matter referred to the Department of Justice; however such drastic action has never been taken.

    Instead, schools found in violation typically agree to change certain policies and procedures to improve their handling of assault cases.

    Closed investigations of colleges' handling of sexual violence
    The Education Department closed 118 cases at 97 schools between 2004 and 2014. Here's what they were:
    State School name Date opened Date resolved Days to resolve Result
    AL Faulkner University 9/18/12 10/18/12 30 Complainant withdraws allegation
    AL University Of Alabama 10/14/14 11/7/14 24 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    AZ University Of Arizona 3/9/09 9/1/09 176 Insufficient evidence of non-complaince determination
    AZ University Of Arizona 7/1/14 11/20/14 142 Allegation lacks sufficient detail to infer discrimination
    CA Azusa Pacific University 8/12/14 9/24/14 43 Complaint is not timely
    CA Biohealth College 11/17/10 5/13/11 177 Prior findings by other agency meet OCR standards
    CA California Polytechnic State Univ-San Luis Obispo 10/16/14 12/2/14 47 Complaint is not timely
    CA Claremont Graduate University 10/18/11 11/1/11 14 Complaint is not timely
    CA Merced College 12/13/06 12/29/08 747 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    CA Pitzer College 3/19/12 3/29/13 375 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    CA Samuel Merritt College 1/24/14 2/10/14 17 OCR has no jurisdiction over allegation
    CA San Francisco State University 11/13/14 12/10/14 27 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    CA University Of California-Berkeley 6/9/14 6/12/14 3 Complaint is not timely
    CA University Of California-Davis 5/23/11 6/14/11 22 Complaint is not timely
    CA University Of California-Los Angeles 8/14/14 10/15/14 62 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    CA University Of California-Santa Cruz 2/14/11 3/2/11 16 Complaint is not timely
    CO Colorado State University 7/2/14 9/26/14 86 Allegation addressed in recent OCR complaince review(s)
    CO University Of Colorado At Boulder 4/2/14 9/4/14 155 Allegation fails to state a violation
    CO University Of Colorado At Denver 1/15/13 2/7/13 23 Complaint is not timely
    CO University Of Colorado At Denver 8/18/14 9/25/14 38 Allegation addressed in recent OCR complaince review(s)
    CT Yale University 3/15/11 6/15/12 458 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    DC George Washington University 3/4/11 8/31/11 180 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    DE University Of Delaware 7/7/14 8/12/14 36 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    FL Florida Gulf Coast University 7/28/14 8/26/14 29 Complaint is not timely
    FL Florida International University 4/28/14 6/3/14 36 Complaint is not timely
    GA Clark Atlanta University 4/24/08 6/10/09 412 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    HI University Of Hawaii At Manoa 5/6/14 6/24/14 49 Complaint is not timely
    IL North Park University 7/22/14 12/18/14 149 Complainant withdraws allegation
    IL Northwestern University 11/24/08 5/22/09 179 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    IL Roosevelt University 3/3/09 4/20/09 48 Complaint is not timely
    IL Southern Illinois University-Carbondale 5/22/09 11/18/09 180 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    IL University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign 5/31/12 5/22/13 356 Early complaint resolution
    IN Butler University 3/15/13 7/12/13 119 Allegation lacks sufficient detail to infer discrimination
    IN Butler University 3/15/13 7/12/13 119 Complaint is not timely
    IN Butler University 5/20/14 6/18/14 29 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    IN Hanover College 2/22/13 9/6/13 196 Complaint is not timely
    IN Indiana University-Bloomington 8/8/14 8/15/14 7 Allegation addressed in recent OCR complaince review(s)
    KS University Of Kansas 10/14/11 3/30/12 168 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    KY Kentucky Wesleyan College 2/21/12 8/15/13 541 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    LA University Of Northern Iowa 7/16/13 8/20/13 35 OCR has no jurisdiction over allegation
    MA Harvard University- Law School 9/27/10 10/8/10 11 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    MA Harvard University- Law School 10/4/10 12/30/14 1548 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    MA Massachusetts Maritime Academy 10/12/12 4/10/13 180 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    MA Northeastern University 1/13/04 7/9/04 178 Insufficient evidence of non-complaince determination
    MA Northeastern University 9/2/14 10/30/14 58 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    MA Quincy College 3/7/12 8/27/13 538 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    MA Springfield College 11/13/13 4/4/14 142 Complaint is not timely
    MA Tufts University 9/10/09 4/30/13 1328 Complaint is not timely
    MA Tufts University 9/10/09 4/30/13 1328 Insufficient evidence of non-complaince determination
    MA Tufts University 9/22/10 4/28/14 1314 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    MA Wentworth Institute Of Technology 5/10/10 6/23/10 44 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    MD Frostburg State University 11/25/14 12/19/14 24 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    MD Saint Mary'S College Of Maryland 5/15/12 6/24/13 405 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    MD Washington Adventist University 10/6/14 12/19/14 74 Complaint is not timely
    ML Michigan College Of Beauty 4/18/13 5/22/13 34 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    ML University Of Michigan-Ann Arbor 8/16/13 2/24/14 192 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    ML University Of Michigan-Ann Arbor 11/3/14 11/6/14 3 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    MO Lincoln University 4/16/09 10/13/09 180 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    MS Antonelli College 8/6/09 10/14/09 69 Complainant refuses to provide information or can't be reached
    MS University Of Mississippi Main Campus 3/8/10 12/22/11 654 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    MT University Of Montana-Missoula 1/11/12 5/17/12 127 Process as complaince review
    NC Appalachian State University 7/14/14 8/8/14 25 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    NC Duke University 2/5/13 7/26/13 171 Complaint is not timely
    NC North Carolina Wesleyan College 4/26/07 12/17/07 235 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    NJ Atlantic Cape Community College 9/29/08 1/26/09 119 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    NJ Bloomfield College 3/22/10 4/22/10 31 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    NJ Princeton University 4/14/10 10/7/10 176 Insufficient evidence of non-complaince determination
    NJ Princeton University 11/10/10 11/5/14 1456 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    NJ Princeton University 8/8/11 2/3/12 179 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    NJ Rider University 6/12/09 4/8/10 300 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    NM Northern New Mexico Community College 5/4/11 1/31/12 272 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    NM Southwest Acupuncture College 2/29/12 6/14/12 106 Early complaint resolution
    NM University Of New Mexico-Main Campus 1/30/14 4/11/14 71 Currently in litigation - 60 day rule
    NY Cuny Queens College 2/10/12 3/12/12 31 Complaint is not timely
    NY Monroe Community College 9/24/14 10/21/14 27 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    NY Suny At Stony Brook 9/20/13 2/19/14 152 Complaint is not timely
    NY Suny Binghamton University 11/12/13 6/27/14 227 Allegation addressed in recent OCR complaince review(s)
    NY Suny Buffalo State College 6/2/14 7/22/14 50 Complaint is not timely
    NY Suny Buffalo State College 6/2/14 7/22/14 50 Previous decisions (by cour, OCR, etc.) preclude processing
    NY The New School University 4/5/11 9/30/11 178 Insufficient evidence of non-complaince determination
    NY University Of Rochester 1/11/11 2/7/11 27 Complaint is not timely
    OH Cedarville University 5/17/13 6/23/14 402 Complaint is not timely
    OH Ohio State University 5/23/13 7/10/13 48 Complainant refuses to provide information or can't be reached
    OH Owens State Community College-Toledo Campus 11/13/07 11/13/09 731 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    OH Xavier University 2/18/09 3/18/09 28 OCR has no jurisdiction over allegation
    OH Xavier University 11/15/11 2/7/12 84 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    OH Xavier University 1/25/12 7/23/12 180 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    OK University Of Central Oklahoma 2/25/10 4/1/10 35 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    OK University Of Central Oklahoma 5/6/10 10/8/10 155 Currently in litigation - 60 day rule
    OR Portland State University 10/10/12 12/14/12 65 Complainant refuses to provide information or can't be reached
    PA Drexel University 6/16/14 8/11/14 56 Complaint is not timely
    PA Haverford College 11/12/09 5/6/10 175 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    PA Pennsylvania State University 3/11/13 3/13/13 2 Complaint is not timely
    PA Pennsylvania State University 10/17/13 4/14/14 179 Process as complaince review
    PA Swarthmore College 10/22/14 10/24/14 2 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    PA West Chester University Of Pennsylvania 5/27/14 8/12/14 77 Allegation lacks sufficient detail to infer discrimination
    PA West Chester University Of Pennsylvania 5/27/14 8/12/14 77 Complaint is not timely
    RL Community College Of Rhode Island 9/20/10 10/29/10 39 Allegation fails to state a violation
    TN Vanderbilt University 11/14/13 3/20/14 126 Allegation addressed in recent OCR complaince review(s)
    TX Prairie View A & M University 3/22/13 4/26/13 35 Complaint is not timely
    TX Southern Methodist University 6/2/11 12/11/14 1288 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    TX Southern Methodist University 3/8/13 12/11/14 643 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    TX Southern Methodist University 3/20/13 12/11/14 631 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    TX Texas A & M University-Kingsville 7/1/14 12/18/14 170 Allegation lacks sufficient detail to infer discrimination
    TX Texas A & Muniversity 8/1/12 8/16/12 15 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    TX The University Of Texas At Arlington 12/3/10 1/7/11 35 Closed with referral to EEOC
    TX The University Of Texas-Pan American 5/5/14 1/5/15 245 Allegation fails to state a violation
    VA University Of Virginia-Main Campus 5/6/10 7/15/11 435 OCR has no jurisdiction over allegation
    VA University Of Virginia-Main Campus 6/18/12 7/27/12 39 Process as complaince review
    VA Virginia Commonwealth University 12/3/10 9/30/11 301 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    VA Virginia Commonwealth University 12/6/10 1/12/11 37 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    VA Virginia Military Institute 6/23/08 5/9/14 2146 Resolution agreement after investigation (non-compliance determination)
    VT Marlboro College 11/2/12 12/6/12 34 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    WA Western Washington University 6/9/14 11/13/14 157 Allegation lacks sufficient detail to infer discrimination
    WA Whitman College 4/15/14 5/15/14 30 Allegation currently being investigated elsewhere (fed, state, internal procedures)
    WI Nicolet Area Technical College 12/17/12 1/11/13 25 Complainant did not give consent to proceed with investigation (or, prior to February 2008, insuficient factual basis)
    WV Glenville State College 12/29/10 1/17/12 384 Resolution agreement before conclusion of investigation
    WV West Virginia University 5/15/14 5/28/14 13 Complaint is not timely
    DATA: US Department of Education
    Matt Rocheleau/Globe Staff

    Open investigations of colleges' handling of sexual violence
    As of April 8, the department was investigating 112 cases at 105 schools. Here's what they were:
    State School name Date opened
    AK University Of Alaska System Of Higher Education 5/5/2014
    AZ Arizona State University 1/26/2012
    CA Butte-Glenn Community College District 2/27/2013
    CA California Institute Of The Arts 9/30/2014
    CA Occidental College 5/2/2013
    CA San Francisco State University 3/10/2015
    CA Stanford University 2/26/2015
    CA San Jose-Evergreen Community College District 11/12/2014
    CA University Of California-Berkeley 3/25/2014
    CA University Of California_Davis 3/24/2015
    CA University Of California-Los Angeles 8/8/2014
    CA University Of California-Santa Cruz 3/13/2015
    CA University Of Southern California 6/26/2013
    CO Colorado State University 6/24/2014
    CO Regis University 4/30/2013
    CO University Of Colorado At Boulder 6/18/2013
    CO University Of Colorado At Denver 4/29/2014
    CO University Of Denver Case 1: 12/12/2013 Case 2: 3/10/2015
    CT University Of Connecticut 2/17/2015
    DC American University 3/11/2015
    DC Catholic University Of America 1/8/2014
    DE University Of Delaware 5/8/2014
    FL Florida State University 4/3/2014
    FL University Of South Florida 9/3/2014
    GA Emory University 12/13/2013
    HI University Of Hawaii At Manoa 5/28/2013
    IA Drake University 10/3/2014
    IA Iowa State University 10/15/2014
    ID University Of Idaho 4/18/2013
    IL Knox College 1/2/2014
    IL University Of Chicago 6/28/2013
    IN Indiana University-Bloomington 3/12/2014
    IN Valparaiso University 10/3/2014
    IN Vincennes University 3/20/2014
    KS Kansas State University 8/4/2014
    KS University Of Kansas 7/16/2014
    KS Washburn University 7/1/2014
    MA Amherst College 1/6/2014
    MA Berklee College Of Music 6/19/2014
    MA Boston University 12/16/2013
    MA Brandeis University 8/29/2014
    MA Emerson College 12/23/2013
    MA Hampshire College 7/17/2014
    MA Harvard College 4/24/2014
    MA Northeastern University 10/30/2014
    MA University Of Massachusetts-Amherst 6/30/2011
    MA University Of Massachusetts-Dartmouth 7/16/2014
    MD Frostburg State University 9/18/2013
    MD Johns Hopkins University 8/8/2014
    MD Saint Mary'S College Of Maryland Case 1: 2/6/2015 Case 2: 2/6/2015 Case 3: 2/6/2015 Case 4: 3/10/2015
    MD Morgan State University 6/26/2014
    MI Grand Valley State University 10/6/2014
    MI Michigan State University Case 1: 7/21/2011 Case 2: 2/18/2014
    MI University Of Michigan-Ann Arbor 2/21/2014
    MO Missouri University Of Science And Technology 5/21/2014
    NC Guilford College 11/18/2013
    NC University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill 3/1/2013
    ND Minot State University 2/26/2014
    NE University Of Nebraska-Lincolin 9/30/2014
    NH Dartmouth College 5/31/2013
    NY Barnard College 12/29/2014
    NY Canisius College 12/11/2014
    NY Columbia University 1/8/2015
    NY Cuny Hunter College 2/8/2013
    NY Elmira College 5/12/2014
    NY Hamilton College 11/14/2014
    NY Hobart And William Smith Colleges 4/24/2014
    NY Pace University - New York 7/22/2014
    NY Saint Thomas Aquinas College 7/9/2014
    NY Sarah Lawrence College 12/4/2013
    NY Suny At Stony Brook 7/23/2014
    NY Suny Buffalo State College 3/26/2015
    NY Suny College At Brockport 2/12/2015
    NY Suny College At Purchase 1/5/2015
    OH Denison University 3/7/2014
    OH The University Of Akron 5/6/2014
    OH Wittenberg University Case 1: 8/25/2011 Case 2: 4/18/2013
    OK Langston University 11/26/2014
    OK Oklahoma State University 4/10/2014
    PA Allegheny College 12/5/2014
    PA Carnegie Mellon University 1/13/2014
    PA Elizabethtown College 11/20/2014
    PA Franklin And Marshall College 3/26/2014
    PA Pennsylvania State University 1/23/2014
    PA Pointe Park University 2/27/2015
    PA Swarthmore College 7/12/2013
    PA Temple University Case 1: 8/9/2013 Case 2: 11/19/2014
    RI Brown University 7/10/2014
    TN University Of Tennessee @ Chattanooga 12/5/2014
    TN Vanderbilt University 3/12/2014
    TX Cisco Junior College 5/7/2014
    TX The University Of Texas-Pan American 4/21/2014
    VA College Of William And Mary 4/18/2014
    VA James Madison University 6/4/2014
    VA University Of Richmond 6/12/2014
    VA University Of Virginia 6/30/2011
    VA Washington And Lee University 2/18/2015
    VT Marlboro College 10/6/2014
    WA Washington State University 1/15/2013
    WA Whitman College 11/7/2014
    WI University Of Wisconsin-Madison 2/24/2015
    WI University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater 2/14/2014
    WV Bethany College 4/28/2014
    WV Davis And Elkins College 9/4/2014
    WV West Virginia School Of Osteopathic Medicine 3/25/2013
    DATA: US Department of Education
    Matt Rocheleau/Globe Staff

    Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.