Area Universities Respond to Sexual Assault Investigation

Harvard University.
Harvard University. –The Boston Globe

Six Massachusetts schools, including Amherst College, Boston University, Emerson College, Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and UMass Amherst, are among 55 schools now under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for their handling of sexual assault cases. The schools responded to local media outlets throughout Thursday.

In a statement released Thursday, UMass Amherst said they were listed in the Office of Civil Rights report as part of a compliance review started in 2011.

"Compliance reviews are designed to address systemic issues and ensure that violations are readily identified and promptly eliminated," said one of the messages sent to the campus at the time. "We applaud the work of the OCR and are confident that any information that results from this compliance review will have a direct and positive impact throughout the university."

Amherst College spokeswoman Caroline Hanna emailed a statementt to the Daily Hampshire Gazette saying the investigation was connected to a pair of incidents at the school. In one case, the assault survivor said she was told to “forgive and forget’’ the incident happened.

"Since then, we have made important changes and will continue to do so," Hanna said. "These efforts include an adjudication process that involves specially trained, non-campus experts; new educational programs aimed at cultural change on campus; and the addition of new staff, including four new members of our Counseling Center, a Title IX coordinator and a sexual respect educator."

Boston University told student newspaper the Daily Free Press it would cooperate fully with the investigation.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said in a statement that the OCR is investigating a single complaint against the university that was filed in Oct. 2013. "While we believe the University provided the student with a prompt a equitable resolution of the complaint in full accordance with the requirements of Title IX, we are cooperating fully with the OCR in its investigation and are always open to improving the manner in which we respond to any complaint of sexual misconduct reported to us," he said.

Harvard University spokesman Jeff Neal said the school has taken “a number of steps’’ to improve the school’s response to sexual assaults, according to The Boston Globe.

He cited the appointment last spring of its first-ever University Title IX officer and the development of a new Title IX policy that would apply to all students, staff, and faculty. In recent weeks, he said, had formally submitted the completed policy and procedures to the Office of Civil Rights for their review.

On Wednesday, Emerson told CBS news it could not comment on the Title IX complaint but that it was “working diligently to expand our education and sex assault prevention programs.’’

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