LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched an investigation against the University of Southern California (USC) over its alleged mishandling of sexual assault and rape cases.
In May, a group of 13 students, along with several other unnamed individuals, filed a 110-page Title IX complaint with OCR, containing accounts from more than 100 students criticizing how USC’s procedures in rape cases, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The lead complainant, Tucker Reed, claims USC dismissed her allegation that her ex-boyfriend raped her, despite providing audio evidence of him admitting to it, the Huffington Post reports. In another incident, a student alleges that a detective with the university’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) told her that no rape had occurred because the suspected assailant did not climax.
Another victim claimed that when she went to DPS to report a sexual assault at a fraternity party, an officer told her women should not “go out, get drunk and expect not to get raped,” according to the Huffington Post.
The complaint also asserts that the university handed out light punishments to students found guilty of sexual assaults, including a letter to stay away from the victim.
Jody Shipper, Title IX coordinator and executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity at USC, commented that the university looks forward to working with OCR to address any concerns.
“The university remains vigilant in addressing any issues promptly and fully as they arise,” she said in a statement.
The university’s Division of Student Affairs also released a statement explaining that the university takes sexual violence seriously.
“In all reported instances, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate disciplinary, as well as interim remedial, action. Previous investigations have resulted in a wide variety of sanctions, up to the dismissal of students from the university, including in cases where no criminal charges were filed.
“While the university remains committed to addressing student concerns and protecting the rights of all students, the university’s disciplinary process cannot and does not take the place of the judicial system. Any student victim of a crime has the option of reporting it to the Los Angeles Police Department.
“The university realizes that alleged crimes within personal relationships can be especially difficult to process, and we offer confidential resources, such as the Student Counseling Center and the Center for Women and Men, to help students deal with such issues.”
OCR noted that it had dismissed some aspects of the complaint because students had not provided enough information, because the agency does not have jurisdiction for the allegation, or because the incident happened more than 180 days prior to filing the complaint.
Currently, OCR is also investigating similar Title IX offenses at UC Berkeley, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Dartmouth, Swarthmore and Occidental colleges.