Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, June 22, 2017

AU student files federal Title IX complaint against AU

Faith Ferber accuses the University of mishandling her sexual assault case.

AU student files federal Title IX complaint against AU

Clarification appended. 

On March 7, AU junior Faith Ferber filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education accusing American University of improperly handling her sexual assault case.

Ferber, an executive board member of Students Against Sexual Violence, said she was required to sign a confidentiality agreement to proceed with a student conduct hearing through the University after the assault. In December, Ferber said she spoke with the Department of Justice and was told that the confidentiality agreement violated Title IX.

“Being forced to sign a confidentiality agreement silences survivors and allows the university to continue mishandling sexual assault cases by threatening students with conduct charges if they don’t comply,” Ferber said in an email to The Eagle. “There’s no reason that a survivor should ever have to choose between attempting to get justice and being able to speak out.”

According to a recent report from End Rape on Campus, an organization committed to ending sexual violence on college campuses, Ferber was assaulted in February 2015. Ferber said the perpetrator in her case remains on campus and only faced disciplinary probation.

“My perpetrator will still be on campus as long as I am, and I’ll be forced to deal with the fear of running into him and retaliation by his friends for the rest of my time at AU,” Ferber said in the email. “But I hope that filing this complaint will make a difference for survivors in the future. I hope that it will help AU see what they’re doing wrong and actually force them to change it instead of just writing us off.”

In a statement to The Eagle at 11:30 a.m. today, AU said that the University had not received any new Title IX complaints from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

“AU does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct. The University is committed to stopping discriminatory behavior, preventing its recurrence and remedying its effects, especially through support to the survivor. We strive to investigate complaints prompt and properly,” the statement said.

Sofie Karasek, the director of education and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, said in an email that the Department of Education will decide whether or not to open an investigation in this case.

AU is already under investigation for a Title IX complaint filed last year. In March 2015, The Eagle reported that 104 universities, including AU, faced federal investigations for violating Title IX. In October, The Eagle reported that the investigation began after an unnamed student filed a federal complaint that a sexual assault case was not handled fairly by the University. According to EROC’s website, 167 schools are currently under investigation for Title IX violations.

In July, Daniel Rappaport, who previously worked as a victim advocate in the AU Wellness Center, left AU. Rappaport now works as a Victim Services Program Specialist for the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services. Rappaport had no responsibility for Title IX compliance in his role as a victim advocate, according to the University. 

Rob Hradsky, an assistant vice president and dean of students at AU, worked as AU’s Title IX coordinator until AU hired a new coordinator, Heather Pratt, in December. Sara Yzaguirre, a victim advocate in the wellness center, also sees students.  

“We are fully cooperating with OCR [the Office of Civil Rights] and await the opportunity to learn if there is more we can do to augment the significant commitments we have made in the last several years to create an environment that is safe, responsive, and compliant with the law,” the University said in a statement.

sscovel@theeagleonline.com

Clarification: This article was updated to include additional information about Daniel Rappaport's role at AU and the position of the Title IX coordinator. Rappaport had no responsibility for Title IX compliance, but Rob Hradsky did serve as the Title IX coordinator before Pratt. Rappaport's position as a victim advocate has still not been filled, but AU’s other victim advocate, Sara Yzaguirre continues to see students.