It's an eyebrow-raising list of colleges nationwide that are “under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.”
And two local schools are on it: USC and Occidental College.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights today released the roster of 55 schools that face inquiries over their handling of the cases:
The possible violations concern Title IX of U.S. education law, which prohibits sex discrimination and mandates that campuses adhere to strict guidelines about how to react to allegations of sexual assault.
The investigation of Occidental is well known. The school sent us this statement:
Occidental has cooperated fully with the Department of Education since its investigation was publicly announced in April 2013. The college has already taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of its students and is committed to spending more time, energy and resources to fight sexual misconduct, report it accurately, and support survivors.
See also: Break-ins and Cover-ups at Occidental?
The Department of Education says:
In the past, Department officials confirmed individual Title IX investigations at institutions, but today's list is the first comprehensive look at which campuses are under review by OCR for possible violations of the law's requirements around sexual violence.
Federal education officials wanted to make it clear that being on the list doesn't mean that the schools in question are guilty. It simply means that feds are looking into how they have handled things.
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon:
We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights. We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law.
The purpose of the inquiries is to “ensure that the campus is in compliance with federal law,” the Department of Education said.
We reached out to USC but had yet to hear back.
[Added at 4:14 p.m.]: USC pointed us to this letter to its community, posted last year.