The University is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for various alleged Title IX violations regarding sexual assault reporting, New England School of Law professor Wendy Murphy said in an email to The Daily Princetonian. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination or exclusion on the basis of sex in educational settings such as universities.
Murphy said she filed the complaint received by the OCR in November that led to the investigation.
University spokeswoman Emily Aronson said in an email that the University is aware of the complaint and that it was related to a disciplinary case that concluded last year. She declined to provide specific details related to the case, citing privacy issues.
“The University has a robust process for responding to reports of sexual assault and offers a full range of resources to students,” Aronson said. “The priority is to make sure students know what resources are available to help them, and that they make a decision that is right for them.”
However, Murphy, who successfully filed a civil rights complaint against Harvard in 2002, said that the University needs to do more.
“I look forward to the resolution of the matter involving Princeton, and I have no doubt that the administration will change its policies as necessary to better protect the rights of all victims,” she said.
In the 2002 case at Harvard, administrators at the time required sufficient independent corroboration — testimony from a third-party witness to the alleged act of sexual assault — before the school would look into a report of sexual assault. After a 10-month investigation by the OCR, the condition was revoked.
Princeton does not require such corroboration before accepting cases, though students have said that the University’s allegedly long and frustrating process of examining reported instances of sexual assault and relative leniency in punishing convicted students propagates a culture of doubt for survivors on campus.
From fall 2006 to spring 2010, only four undergraduate students were found guilty of sexual assault, according to the Committee on Discipline’s annual discipline reports. In two of those academic years, no student successfully convicted another student of sexual assault.
Even among those who were convicted in the four-year period, none were expelled. Nine students were expelled for reasons such as repeated instances of plagiarism during that time.
Though Murphy declined to discuss details of the investigation of Princeton, citing her ongoing involvement, she said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian in April 2010 that one issue with the University’s current sexual assault reporting procedure was its high burden of proof.
She explained that Title IX requires universities to find students guilty if there is “clear proof by a preponderance of evidence,” which she suggested would require only more than half of the evidence to point to guilt.
University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt ’96 said at the time, however, that the University requires “clear and persuasive evidence” to find a student guilty of sexual assault.
University general counsel Peter McDonough explained in March 2010 that Princeton was not obligated by law to adopt a lower burden of proof.
“We are unaware of any controlling judicial authority, or any applicable federal or state statute, that requires the University to adopt a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard for student disciplinary matters involving allegations of sexual assault or harassment,” he said.
“The disciplinary hearing is not a court of law and therefore the same set of rules does not apply, but of course the goal is a fair outcome,” Aronson said on Monday.
Murphy said she was also actively involved in “several other pending investigations” against schools such as Harvard Law School and the University of Virginia.
In recent weeks, a similar investigation at Yale of Title IX violations has received national media attention and has prompted Yale to take action.
Sixteen Yale students and alumni filed a complaint to the OCR on March 15 with anonymous testimonies of the university’s misconduct in investigating cases of sexual harassment and assault.
Several incidents regarding sexual harassment on Yale’s campus in recent years have caused outrage among both members of its student body and outside observers.
In 2008, Zeta Psi fraternity pledges were photographed outside the Yale Women’s Center with a sign that read “We Love Yale Sluts,” and last October, Delta Kappa Epsilon pledges repeatedly shouted misogynist phrases such as “No means yes, yes means anal” and “My name is Jack, I’m a necrophiliac, I fuck dead women” on Yale’s Old Campus after a fraternity initiation.
Following the recent complaint, Yale announced the creation of a new sexual misconduct grievance filing process on April 6.
Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, consisting of Yale students, faculty and administrators as well as a professional experienced with investigations, will address reported cases of sexual assault at Yale starting on July 1.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/04/19/28314/