Wesley College sexual assault case part of growing reports to Office for Civil Rights
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is seeing a sharp increase in cases it handles regarding how colleges respond to sexual assault and violence on campus.
Since 2011 - they’re up 800 percent. In 2009, the office saw only nine. Last year, it handled 163.
I think there’s been a national conversation about the prevalence of sexual violence in our college and university campuses and our student lives," said Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for the Office for Civil Rights.
She says her department’s role is to ensure student experiences and university protocols are in line with students’ Title IX rights.
She calls a recent case at Wesley College surprising in its lack of Title IX compliance. She says a decision to expel students within a week of a complaint failed to provide due process for the accused and interim relief for the accuser.
“There are any variety of kinds of relief that may be necessary to ensure student safety while a college is investigating the allegations and determining what ultimate steps may or may not need to be taken,” Lhamon said.
Lhamon adds interim relief could include counseling services, special housing accommodations or even a leave of absence throughout the duration of the university’s investigation into the matter.
She also notes Wesley College’s recent violations of students’ Title IX rights was far outside the norm.
"Wesley was very surprising in its deviation from Title IX," she said. "I have not seen another college that saw the coalescence of facts that we saw at Wesley."
Within one week of a 2015 sexual assault complaint, multiple Wesley students were expelled without being interviewed.
Lhamon calls that “swift and unjust,” since the accused students weren't provided with the procedural protections necessary for an equitable process.
She added colleges should resolve cases in 60 days or less.
Wesley reached a settlement over its violations last week and is working toward making sure its procedures are Title IX compliant.