Dept. of Ed. Opens Third Title IX Investigation into Univ. of Maryland
The Department of Education opened the first two Title IX investigations on January 11 and March 31; both cases remain open.
The Department of Education confirmed on Wednesday that its Office for Civil Rights has initiated its third investigation into how the University of Maryland, College Park handles reported sexual assaults.
The third investigation began on December 6, following two other investigations that were launched earlier this year.
“The university learned of an individual complaint prompting review by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights on possible Title IX violations,” university spokeswoman Katie Lawson wrote in a statement. “We plan to fully comply and assist in the review process. Our commitment to a campus free of sexual misconduct remains steadfast.”
Students at College Park have pushed for years for the school to dedicate more resources to stop sexual assaults on campus, reports The Baltimore Sun. The school’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct was created in 2014.
In the two years following the OCRSM’s establishment, a record number of students were expelled for sexual assault.
In 2016, the school’s Student Government Association proposed a $34 mandatory student fee to help with funding for the Title IX office, arguing it was understaffed and underfunded.
SGA president A.J. Pruitt, who pushed for the student fee, says he believes the school has made progress since the first two investigations began.
The first one began on January 11 and the second on March 31, neither of which have been resolved.
“What I’d really like to see is that, instead of new investigations, we actually close some of the ongoing investigations,” says Pruitt. “What are the concrete things we can do to ensure we’re meeting federal policies and doing everything we should do around sexual misconduct?”
The group later withdrew its proposal as the school approved funding to add six new staff positions to address sexual misconduct.
In October 2016, university president Wallace Loh announced the approval of a Joint President / Senate Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force. The task force is a 16-member group made up of faculty, staff and students.
The group presented a series of recommendations to the school that were approved by Loh in May. The recommendations include in-person sexual assault prevention training for all students and a centralized website to effectively connect its students with available resources.
Cristina Johnson, a senior and the president of Preventing Sexual Assault, says the newest investigation shows the school has to do more in preventing the “epidemic” of campus sexual assaults.
“They’ve been constantly saying that it’s going to get better, but to me, this is another way of showing that we need to keep putting pressure on the administration,” says Johnson. “We need to make this a priority.”
During the 2015-2016 academic year, four students were expelled for sexual misconduct, a record for the university.
The university is also facing a $5 million lawsuit from a former student who alleges he was wrongfully expelled after being found responsible for sexually assaulting a woman on campus in 2014.
As of December 13, there were 343 open investigations across 247 U.S. colleges and universities, according to DBK News.
Investigations are currently underway at all but three of the 14 Big Ten institutions – five of which have at least two open cases.
A total of 457 investigations have been conducted by the federal government and only 114 have been resolved.
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