Found in violation of Title IX, Princeton to reexamine at least 11 cases of sexual misconduct
Princeton will have to reexamine at least 11 cases of sexual misconduct, all of them adjudicated internally by the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline during the past three academic years.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced on Wednesday that it had found the University in violation of Title IX. As part of its resolution agreement with OCR, the University agreed to reexamine all cases, including acquittals, brought before the Committee in the past three academic years
In that time period, 11 cases of sexual assault were brought before a subcommittee of the Committee on Discipline that deals with sexual assault, according to the University’s annual discipline reports. Students were found responsible of sexual assault in seven of those cases.
University spokesperson Martin Mbugua said that the same administrators who originally reviewed and decided the outcomes of these cases will not be re-examining them. He said that other administrators will be assembled and placed on panels for this purpose.
Mbugua explained that the process is ongoing and that the administration will go through every case carefully. The target date for the conclusion of the re-examination process is February 2015.
“At this time, it’s too early to tell what that process will determine, or any action or steps that will be taken,” Mbugua said.
Mbugua added that the University is not expected to reinvestigate or rehear matters that have been finally resolved under University policy.
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Victoria Jueds, who is the secretary to the Committee on Discipline, declined to comment. Title IX coordinator and vice provost for institutional equity and diversity Michele Minter was away from her office and said she was unavailable for comment.
A spokesperson for the OCR did not respond to a request for comment.
Title IX is part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 and states that no person can be excluded or discriminated by any “educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The OCR concluded Wednesday that the University did not provide a prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment.
In the 2011-12 academic year, one student was given disciplinary probation for verbally engaging in sexual harassment, according to that year’s disciplinary report.
For the 2012-13 academic year, there were seven infractions and three students penalized. Specifically, there was a disciplinary probation for a “significant act of sexually inappropriate conduct that created a demeaning and threatening environment,” in addition to a suspension and a withheld degree for two cases of nonconsensual sexual assault.
This past year, three students were held responsible for sexual misconduct cases; two suspensions and one expulsion.
The suspensions were for an “egregious act of sexual exploitation” and nonconsensual sexual assault, respectively. The expulsion, which was the most severe penalty given in the past several years, was for an assaulter who deliberately targeted a victim and took steps to isolate her from peers who could help before assaulting her.
Also included in the report was a graduate student’s disciplinary probation for sexually inappropriate conduct, though that was not included in the total number of sexual misconduct cases.
As part of the resolution agreement, the University will institute a number of new measures in the next academic year, including training staff to recognize and report incidents of sexual harassment, as well as holding information sessions for students designed to create awareness and understanding of sexual misconduct.
The University also launched an overhaul of its sexual assault policies over the summer in anticipation of the OCR’s determination. As part of the review, the University decided to lower the standard of evidence from “clear and persuasive” to “preponderant of the evidence,” give both complainant and accused the right to appeal and implement a panel of professional investigators to replace the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline in sexual assault hearings.
For every measure, the University will provide the OCR with a description of the measures and evidence that they have implemented. These updates will continue until Oct. 15, 2017.