WSU investigated for mishandling sexual assault

BY JACOB RUMMEL | Evergreen reporter

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WSU is one of 55 institutions of higher education with open investigations concerning the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The U.S Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released the list on Thursday after the White House announced its intent to bring more transparency to the way colleges handle sexual assault.

Investigations of sexual violence in education fall under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which covers gender discrimination in education, and institutions that do not resolve Title IX violations can lose out on federal funding.

Jim Bradshaw, an OCR representative, said the investigation of WSU began January 15, 2013. WSU received notification that the OCR received a complaint the same month the investigation began. WSU said in a press release the complaint alleged the university failed to adequately respond to allegations of sexual harassment, including incidents of sexual assault.

A document distributed by the White House describes the rights of students and the responsibilities of universities under Title IX as it pertains to sexual assault.

“A school has a responsibility to respond promptly and effectively,” the document reads. “If a school knows or reasonably should know about sexual harassment or sexual violence that creates a hostile environment, the school must take immediate action to eliminate the sexual harassment or sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”

Besides the notice from the OCR, a WSU representative said they have little information about the investigation.

“We have very limited information about the allegations themselves,” WSU representative Robert Strenge said. “We simply don’t know what they entail.”

WSU requested to be a part of the OCR’s voluntary resolution process, but as of May 2 the OCR had not responded, Strenge said. This means the university hopes to cooperate and work with the OCR in order to improve its policies.

The OCR is not releasing any details about the specifics of investigations, including the reason for inclusion on the list of the 55 institutions Bradshaw said.

WSU has been under investigation for one year and three months, longer than Bradshaw said is normal.

“Ballpark, we usually wrap up investigations in six months, but some take longer due to issues and complexities,” he said.

The University of Idaho is also on the list of institutions under investigation.