Ed Dept: 55 schools face sex assault investigation

      File photo.
      File photo.

      WASHINGTON (AP) — From huge state universities to small colleges and the Ivy League, 55 schools across America are facing federal investigation for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

      For the first time, the Education Department revealed its list of colleges under investigation on Thursday — though no details of the complaints — as the Obama administration sought to bring more openness to the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation's campuses.

      The schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools including Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Ivy League schools including Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are also on the list.

      The government emphasized the list was about investigations of complaints, not judgments. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there was "absolutely zero presumption" of guilt.

      A list of the 55 colleges and universities currently facing a sexual abuse investigation under the Title IX law, according to the Education Department:


      Arizona State University

      Butte-Glenn Community College District

      Occidental College

      University of California-Berkeley

      University of Southern California

      Regis University

      University of Colorado at Boulder

      University of Colorado at Denver

      University of Denver

      University of Connecticut

      Catholic University of America

      Florida State University

      Emory University

      University of Hawaii at Manoa

      University of Idaho

      Knox College

      University of Chicago

      Indiana University-Bloomington

      Vincennes University

      Amherst College

      Boston University

      Emerson College

      Harvard College

      Harvard University - Law School

      University of Massachusetts-Amherst

      Frostburg State University

      Michigan State University

      University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

      Guilford College

      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

      Minot State University

      Dartmouth College

      Princeton University

      CUNY Hunter College

      Hobart and William Smith Colleges

      Sarah Lawrence College

      SUNY at Binghamton

      Denison University

      Ohio State University

      Wittenberg University

      Oklahoma State University

      Carnegie Mellon University

      Franklin and Marshall College

      Pennsylvania State University

      Swarthmore College

      Temple University

      Vanderbilt University

      Southern Methodist University

      The University of Texas-Pan American

      College of William and Mary

      University of Virginia

      Washington State University

      University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

      Bethany College

      West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

      Source: U.S. Department of Education

      Few details of individual cases are known, but some are. One, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, involves allegations of mishandling of a matter involving a football player. The investigation began after federal authorities received complaints related to the expulsion of Brendan Gibbons, a former placekicker.

      A student group examined the school's student sexual misconduct policy and last month determined the university failed to explain a yearslong delay between the alleged incident and Gibbons' expulsion in December. Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald says the university has been "fully cooperating."

      Schools on the list, for the most part, were unwilling to talk about specific incidents but said they have been working with the federal department to be more responsive to student complaints.

      "We are hopeful at the end of this there will be a resolution that will strengthen our internal processes and result in a safer community," said Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson. "There's always something we can learn and ways to get better."

      The Obama administration's effort to bring more attention to the issue of sexual assaults is not limited to colleges.

      Separately on Thursday, the Pentagon said that reports of assaults by members of the military have risen 50 percent since the beginning of a campaign to persuade more victims to come forward. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is ordering six initiatives to deal with sexual assaults, including efforts to get more male victims to speak up.

      The college investigations are done under Title IX of a U.S. law, which prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls and women equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

      The agency previously would confirm such Title IX investigations when asked, but students and others were often unaware of them.

      Duncan said there had been "lots of internal debate" about whether to release the list but that transparency is important.

      "No one probably loves to have their name on that list," Duncan said during a White House briefing. "But we'll investigate; we'll go where the facts are. And where they have done everything perfectly, we'll be very loud and clear that they've done everything perfectly."

      The department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with the law, but it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.

      About half of all states have schools under investigation.

      Massachusetts has six, including Harvard College.

      Harvard students filed formal complaints in late March to the department saying the college did not respond promptly to reports of sexual violence, that students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment, and that in some cases assault victims were forced to live in the same residence buildings as their alleged assailants.

      "Harvard has taken a number of steps to foster prevention efforts and to support students who have experienced sexual misconduct," spokesman Jeff Neal said. They include appointing a Title IX officer to review policies and procedures.

      Pennsylvania had five schools listed. California, Colorado and New York each had four.

      Some investigations were prompted by complaints directly to the federal department; others were initiated by the department following compliance reviews triggered by other factors, such as news stories, the department said. Some schools wanted to note what triggered the investigation.

      Indiana University-Bloomington, for example, said the federal department had confirmed that it didn't receive any complaints against the school "that would have triggered an investigation."

      Similarly, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also said it was being investigated under a standard compliance review and not because of any specific complaints.

      At Sarah Lawrence College, a heavily female school on the list, a spokeswoman said the college has taken steps that include putting up posters advising students of what to do if they are sexually assaulted and requiring a "consent and respect online" course for new students starting this summer.

      While being on the list might be difficult for schools, Duncan said, it pales in comparison to the difficulty and trauma borne by sexual assault victims on American college campuses.

      "In terms of what's morally right there, the moral compass, whatever we can do to have fewer young women and young men having to go through these types of horrific incidents, we want to do that," Duncan said.

      The White House has said that as many as 1 in 5 female college students is assaulted. President Barack Obama has appointed a task force of Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.

      The task force's report, released just two days earlier, announced the creation of a website,, offering resources for victims and information about past enforcement actions on campuses. The task force also made a wide range of recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on campuses.

      The department publicized guidance on Title IX's sexual assault provisions in 2011, and complaints by students have since increased. Complaints, however, don't always lead to an investigation.

      Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have said non-compliance under the law is "far too common." They say a lack of federal resources is partly to blame for that, and they've sought more money to ensure timely and proper investigations.

      In a statement Thursday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., praised the release of the list but said the department needs to "thoroughly and rapidly" investigate the complaints.

      Another law that campus sexual assault cases fall under is the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report crime statistics on or near their campuses. It also requires schools to develop prevention policies and ensure victims' basic rights. Investigations under this law are not included in the list that was released.


      Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, Corey Williams in Detroit, Michigan, Paige Sutherland in Boston, Rick Callahan in Indianapolis, Jennifer Peltz in New York and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.