Dartmouth and USC Face Federal Investigations of Sexual Assault

Dartmouth College and the University of Southern California joined a number of elite colleges and universities under federal investigation for handling of sexual misconduct and assault on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating both institutions for violations of Title IX, which requires schools to respond “promptly and effectively” to reports of sexual violence, office spokesperson Jim Bradshaw told Bloomberg on Monday.


The USC investigation came after a direct complaint from a group of 13 students who said the school had failed to address reports of on campus sexual violence.

Tucker Reed, the lead complainant, told the OCR in a letter obtained by The Huffington Post, that the school ignored her claims that her ex-boyfriend had raped her despite being provided with audio recordings of him admitting to the crime. Another student, who remained anonymous, wrote in the complaint that campus police said, “Even though his penis penetrated your vagina, because he stopped, it was not a crime.”

"We look forward to working with OCR to address any concerns and review our protocols as needed," Jody Shipper, USC Title IX coordinator, told the Huffington Post on Monday.


The OCR initiated the Dartmouth investigation of its own accord, although Bradshaw said the office would not discuss its reasons for it. This is unusual practice as most investigations are sparked by direct student complaints of Title IX violations.

Dartmouth has encountered complaints of mishandling of sexual violence before. In April, student demonstration during prospective student weekend over sexual assault and other incidents of racism and aggression prompted Carol Folt, Dartmouth’s interim president, to cancel a day of classes. The student protestors faced considerable hostility on campus, some even receiving death threats, reported USA Today.

In May, students filed a complaint to the Education Department saying that the college violated the Clery Act, which requires schools to report crimes, including sexual assaults.

Dartmouth has said it is cooperating with the investigation. “We strive to maintain a process for handling complaints that is fair, supportive and incorporates best practices,” Justin Anderson, college spokesperson, told Bloomberg on Monday. “Beyond responding to complaints, we have worked intentionally and diligently in recent years to reduce incidents of sexual assault on campus, create a climate of reporting and support those who have come forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault.”


Other Schools

Dartmouth and USC join a list of elite schools that are facing allegations of mishandling sexual assault reports.

Federal investigations began at Swarthmore College earlier this month after complaints that the school had breached the Clery Act. In advance of the federal investigation, Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp announced last Thursday in a letter to the community several big changes in sexual assault policy at the school, including the hiring of a fulltime Title IX coordinator and advocate for sexual assault victims, re-evaluation of alcohol and drug use in relation to sexual misconduct, and institution of a Title IX training program for all campus security authorities.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill now faces three separate federal investigations of mishandling of sexual assault after the OCR announced it would investigate the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill after a federal complaint that the school mistreated sexual assault victims and underreported the number of sexual assaults on campus.

Other colleges currently reviewing their sexual assault policies include University of Colorado Boulder, Amherst College, University of Montana, Oklahoma State University, and Yale University.