Swarthmore College Under Federal Investigation for Supposed Mishandling of Sexual Assaults

Swarthmore College has been added to the list of elite institutions under investigation for mistreating victims of sexual assault and harassment.

Swarthmore College’s Daily Gazette reported in April that 12 students had filed a complaint with the federal government claiming that their college was in breach of the Clery Act. The Clery Act is a federal act which requires institutions to disclose information and statistics about crime on campus, including sexual assaults. Also in April, a complaint was also filed with the Education Department stating that the college was under-reporting sexual assaults.

Last Friday, both those who lodged the complaint and the school itself received notification from the OCR that an inquiry has been opened on the basis of the complaints. A spokeswoman for the prestigious college, Nancy Nicely, said “We welcome that review and will, of course, cooperate fully and expeditiously."

The consequences of a negative outcome could be serious for the college as it could result in the OCR withholding federal funding from them or, in a less serious scenario, the office may oversee a rewrite of the school’s policies.

The student complainants seem to be pleased with the outcome so far, with Mia Fergusson, a student of the college and a complainant, explaining that "Having OCR investigate is validation that violations are occurring at Swarthmore".

Furthermore, another Swarthmore student, Hope Brinn, claims that when she attempted to report her sexual harassment incident by a male student that the administrator had continually asked her what her role in the incident had been — could she have provoked his behavior? Eventually, the administrator said to her that the student’s admission that he had harassed her “was punishment enough”.

Rebecca Chop, president of Swarthmore College, announced recently that not only would they be asking outside experts for their opinions on sex-related cases, but also that: “we’ve made changes in policies, we’ve provided more support and more training, we’ve changed some personnel.”

The college, which recently topped The Princeton Review’s list of best private colleges in the USA, joins Amherst College, University of North Carolina, and Yale University, which are also investigating or reviewing their policies on sexual assaults.