Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, January 21, 2018

University responds to Title IX complaint

Administration says it is developing new programs to help sexual assault survivors

University officials said in an email to the campus community Monday that they will cooperate with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights as it investigates AU for a potential Title IX violation that was officially announced earlier this week.

“AU will respond in a timely manner to OCR’s request for data necessary to investigate this complaint,” wrote Title IX Program Officer Heather Pratt in the memo.

AU received official notice of the investigation on June 23, Pratt wrote. The school is also currently undergoing a separate Title IX violation investigation that began last year.

Federal investigators will determine whether the University “promptly and adequately” dealt with Ferber’s case, according to the notice the school received, as quoted in Pratt’s email.

“Sexual assault is a devastating experience that we work to prevent and respond to in our community,” Pratt wrote. “AU has worked diligently to develop policies and procedures that are compliant with OCR guidance, and it has pursued continuous improvement in its support services for survivors of sexual violence.”

The investigation comes as a result of a complaint senior Faith Ferber filed on March 8. The complaint alleges that the University failed to follow OCR guidelines for processing a report of sexual assault, and forced Ferber to sign a confidentiality agreement that she says violates Title IX, which she described to The Eagle in March.

Ferber said she was happy to hear of OCR’s decision to launch an investigation.

“I’m really happy that the ball is at least getting rolling,” Ferber told The Eagle in an email earlier this week. “I know it will take month and even years for the investigation to be completed, but at least now I don’t have to deal with [Vice President of Campus Life] Gail Hanson consistently writing off everyone’s outrage by saying, ‘We haven’t even received notice of this complaint.’”

AU’s dual investigations are among hundreds in the country still pending decisions from OCR.

More than 80% of the 296 cases ever received by OCR are still under investigation, according to data collected by the Chronicle for Higher Education. That massive pile up of cases means the average investigation takes about 1.3 years to complete, the Chronicle found.

ehartleb@theeagleonline.com


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