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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis under investigation for possible violations

Published: September 5, 2014
Section: News

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has informed Brandeis University that a Brandeis student, who had been accused of sexual misconduct, has filed a complaint with the university for non-compliance with Title IX, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972. This complaint places Brandeis University on a list of more than 75 colleges and universities that have been notified of potential Title IX violations, which includes Harvard College, Princeton University, Pennsylvania State University and numerous other private and public institutions.

The university’s official statement on the matter, written by Bill Schaller, executive director of integrated media, acknowledged the fact that they have been notified of the complaint. It also sought to reassure the Brandeis community, highlighting that the university has the utmost commitment to the safety of students. The statement then outlined the university’s general policies and procedures for dealing with cases of sexual violence, as well as recent actions to further protect victims and prevent these acts from occurring.

With the establishment of the student-run Rape Crisis Center and the relocation of Sheila McMahon’s office, the sexual assault services and prevention specialist, the university shows its commitment to protecting the health and safety of students by providing both an accessible and private space. Both offices will be located near each other in Usdan, which will allow Sheila McMahon to coordinate with and provide advising to the student-run center. Also mentioned in the statement was the creation of a new sexual assault services and prevention website, two new resource guides on sexual misconduct and the bystander-intervention training that is still underway. These student-trained facilitators will be scheduling training sessions for student clubs and organizations, as well as various departments including Athletics and Academic Services, across campus over the next few months.

Schaller also reiterated the university’s commitment to the safety, health and well-being of its students, echoing President Fred Lawrence’s words that it is a “sacred trust, and we take it as such.” Schaller then expressed his gratitude for the students, faculty and staff who are working to make Brandeis a “global leader in this most critical of our responsibilities.”

Title IX aims to protect against discrimination or exclusion from any sort of education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance based on demographic factors such as sex. While it most notably is enforced within athletics, encouraging colleges and high schools to field an equal amount of male and female sports teams, Title IX also administers how colleges and universities must investigate instances of sexual assault and violence. Often, these Title IX complaints, which are filed when the victim of sexual misconduct presents their case to the Department of Education, are met with coverage in the media of the inadequacies of the investigation process, and leads to reform for that particular institution’s policies and procedures.

Since Brandeis has only just come under investigation as of Wednesday, Sept. 3, the outcome has yet to be determined.