Ohio State is one of 55 U.S. colleges and universities being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for its handling of sexual abuse complaints under Title IX. An OSU spokesman said, however, no major concerns have been found in the investigation.
The department posted the list Thursday, the first time a comprehensive list of the campuses being investigated has been made public, according to the release.
“We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said in a released statement. “We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue.”
Lhamon added that an institution’s presence on the list does not necessarily incriminate it.
“I also want to make it clear that a college or university’s appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law,” the statement read.
The Department of Education’s release noted that case-specific facts and details about the institutions being investigated won’t be disclosed, but it did provide some examples of the types of complaints that prompted investigations.
“The list includes investigations opened because of complaints received by (the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) and those initiated by OCR as compliance reviews. When an investigation concludes, the department will disclose, upon request, whether OCR has entered into a resolution agreement to address compliance concerns at a particular campus or found insufficient evidence of a Title IX violation there,” the release said.
Title IX is a section of the Education Amendments of 1972 that aims to protect against discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal funding.
OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said Thursday that the investigation at OSU is coming to an end.
“Over the past several years, Ohio State has been partnering with the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on a proactive review of the University’s Title IX policies and procedures for combating student sexual violence and harassment,” Lewis said in an email Thursday. “Throughout that process, which is now winding down, OCR has consistently told us that Ohio State has impressive protocols and resources for combating sexual harassment, that no major concerns or findings have been identified, and that our protocols could serve as a model for other schools around the country.”
Lewis also noted “these proactive efforts are different from complaint-driven investigations included on the list, as Ohio State is not under investigation for any Title IX complaints about sexual harassment or assault.”
He did not say if there are any specific plans in place to make changes to OSU’s system of handling sexual abuse complaints.
A release by the Department of Education defined what the department means by sexual violence: “Under federal law, sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent – including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.”
Other Big Ten universities on the Department of Education’s list included Indiana University, Michigan State University and University of Michigan, and other Ohio higher education institutions listed included Denison University and Wittenberg University, both of which are private institutions.
The list was released as part of the goal of President Barack Obama’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to bring more transparency to the federal government’s enforcement activities, according to the release. Obama’s initiative was announced earlier this year with the goal of enhancing federal enforcement efforts and giving schools more resources to diminish sexual assaults.
The Department of Education released guidelines to that effect earlier this week, according to the release, that give more description to what higher education institutions receiving federal funds must do to address sexual violence at their campuses.