Feds investigate Duke handling of sex assault complaints

Posted January 19, 2016

— Federal authorities are looking into how Duke University handles reports of sexual assault on campus.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights opened the investigation in November after a student filed a Title IX complaint, according to Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations.

Title IX is federal legislation that prohibits gender discrimination on college campuses. Although it is often linked to sports, the law also requires colleges and universities to deal with reports of sexual misconduct quickly and fairly.

"The university will cooperate fully with the investigation, which will review the handling of sexual misconduct and harassment complaints involving students, faculty and staff," Schoenfeld said in a statement. "While we are not able to comment on specific cases, Duke is firmly committed to sustaining a safe, inclusive environment for all students and works diligently across the campus to ensure compliance with the letter and spirit of Title IX."

The Office of Civil Rights closed another Title IX investigation against Duke in July 2013 after only four months, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. An agency spokeswoman said the "allegation was untimely."

Since then, Duke suspended the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity last January after a student reported that she had been drugged and assaulted at an off-campus fraternity party. Durham County prosecutors later decided not to press charges in the case.

Also, a senior who was expelled in 2014 after being accused of sex assault sued the university, claiming officials botched the investigation.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been under Title IX investigation for nearly three years after several students claimed administrators were underreporting sex assaults on campus. The school has since implemented new policies, including all students to take an online course on sexual violence and harassment.


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