Chronicle of Higher Education
1.15.16 | Sara Lipka
Since the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights signaled stricter enforcement of Title IX in April 2011, it has resolved 46 investigations of colleges for possible violations of the gender-equity law involving alleged sexual violence. You can explore all investigations in this wave of enforcement and learn more with The Chronicle’s Title IX investigation tracker.
Here we break down those 46 cases to see how they were resolved.
30 resulted in resolution agreements
That means the Office for Civil Rights, known as OCR, issues two documents. One is a letter of findings, which generally explains what federal officials investigated and why (because of a complaint or a proactive compliance review), establishes whether the college violated the law, and details any missteps. A letter can be dozens of pages long, and campus administrators usually may not read it before they agree to settle the investigation.
The second document is a resolution agreement, which outlines OCR’s requirements for the college, including any policies and procedures it must change or introduce, and specifies a monitoring period that can be a few years. A resolution agreement typically recognizes the college’s recent efforts to improve its sexual-assault prevention and response, and clearly states that the settlement does not constitute an admission by the college of any findings made by OCR. The resolution agreement represents a negotiation (sometimes a fierce one) between campus and federal officials.
Over the past five years, those findings and the requirements of colleges have gotten tougher. In the two most recent settlements, OCR leveled its most grievous charge, finding that Michigan State University and the University of Virginia each had a "hostile environment" or the basis for one.
Following are the investigations resolved since April 4, 2011, when OCR issued a "Dear Colleague" letter exhorting colleges to respond to students’ reports of sexual assault — and to protect them throughout the process. If the letter of findings is available, it is linked from the first icon (a sheet of paper). If the resolution agreement is available, it is linked from the second icon (a sheet of paper with a folded corner).