Students

How 46 Title IX Cases Were Resolved

January 15, 2016

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). 

BioHealth College (5/3/2011)
University of Notre Dame (6/30/2011)
George Washington University (8/31/2011)
New School (9/30/2011)
Virginia Commonwealth University (9/30/2011)
University of Mississippi (12/22/2011)
Glenville State College
(1/17/2012)
Northern New Mexico College
(1/31/2012)
University of Kansas
(3/30/2012)
Yale University
(6/15/2012)
Xavier University (Ohio)
(7/23/2012)
Pitzer College
(3/29/2013)
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
(4/10/2013)
University of Montana at Missoula
(5/9/2013)
St. Mary’s College of Maryland
(6/24/2013)
Kentucky Wesleyan College
(8/15/2013)
Quincy College
(8/27/2013)
State University of New York system
(10/31/2013)
Tufts University
(4/28/2014)
Virginia Military Institute
(5/9/2014)
Cedarville University
(6/23/2014)
Ohio State University
(9/11/2014)
Princeton University
(11/5/2014)
Southern Methodist University
(12/11/2014)
Southern Methodist University
(12/11/2014)
Southern Methodist University
(12/11/2014)
Harvard Law School
(12/30/2014)
Michigan State University
(9/1/2015)
Michigan State University
(9/1/2015)
University of Virginia
(9/21/2015)


7 were administratively closed

That means OCR has determined the case is not eligible for review. That could be because there are no systemic allegations, the complainant has withdrawn the complaint or is no longer willing to cooperate, or another entity (an institution, government agency, or court) is simultaneously considering the same allegations.

In such cases, OCR issues a closure letter but no letter of findings or resolution agreement.

Most closure letters in this wave of enforcement have not yet been made public, but one to Brandeis University, in May 2015, holds some clues. "The complainant," the letter says, "filed an action against the university in federal court," and "OCR has determined that the allegations … are the same as those … filed with OCR." The office adds that it "has not obtained sufficient evidence to support a finding with regard to the allegations."

A University of Connecticut investigation was based on a complaint from seven current or former students, four of whom also filed a lawsuit against the institution that was settled in July 2014. OCR’s investigation remained open for seven more months before the administrative closure.

An investigation of Xavier University of Ohio was administratively closed the same day another investigation there was opened. 

Princeton University (2/3/2012) 
Princeton University (2/3/2012)
Xavier University (Ohio) (2/7/2012)
State University of New York at Binghamton (6/27/2014)
University of Connecticut (2/17/2015)
University of San Diego (3/23/2015)
Brandeis University (4/22/2015)


4 were settled through early-complaint resolution

That means the institution and complainant(s) reach a private agreement, and OCR, not a party to that settlement, effectively ends its investigation. It issues a closure letter but no letter of findings or resolution agreement.

An investigation of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, was resolved the same month the complainant and the university agreed to a settlement. The institution admitted no wrongdoing but paid the complainant $77,000 and announced that it would better train its staff and revise its policies for responding to reports of sexual assault. The complainant, a former student, agreed not to sue the university. 

Southwest Acupuncture College (6/14/2012)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (5/22/2013)
Hanover College (9/6/2013)
State University of New York at Stony Brook (2/19/2014) 


3 were found to have insufficient evidence

That means OCR finds there isn’t enough support for the allegations it has been investigating. By the same standard of proof colleges use to weigh a report of sexual assault — preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not — OCR determines that the college did not fail to comply with Title IX regulations. The office issues a letter of findings.

A letter to Virginia Military Institute chronicles its response to a complainant’s report of sexual assault. OCR found that the institution was prompt, provided interim measures to protect the cadet, regularly updated the two parties involved in the case, heard it fairly, applied the appropriate standard of evidence in determining that the accused student had not violated institutional policy, and notified both parties. As for an allegation of retaliation, OCR found that VMI had a "legitimate, nonretaliatory reason" for its action involving the complainant.

An investigation of Tufts University was opened a day after another one there, and the initial investigation (cited above, in the resolution-agreement list) lasted a year longer than the one found to have insufficient evidence.

Tufts University (4/30/2013)
Pennsylvania State University (4/14/2014)
Virginia Military Institute (4/6/2015)


2 have an unknown resolution

That means OCR has confirmed the dates each investigation was opened and resolved, but a spokeswoman for the Education Department has said that no investigation was ever opened. 

Duke University (7/26/2013)
Samuel Merritt College (2/10/2014) 

Sara Lipka edits coverage of campus life and other topics. Follow her on Twitter @chronsara, or email her at sara.lipka@chronicle.com.


Questions or concerns about this article? Email us or submit a letter to the editor.