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Hunter College Investigated by Feds for Allegedly Mishandling Sex Assault

By Lindsay Armstrong | May 1, 2014 7:42pm | Updated on May 1, 2014 7:45pm
 The main entrance of Hunter College on the Upper East Side.
The main entrance of Hunter College on the Upper East Side.
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Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken

UPPER EAST SIDE — Hunter College has been targeted by the U.S. Department of Education as one of several institutions currently under investigation for possibly violating federal law in terms of the school’s handling of complaints of sexual violence and harassment.

The list, which was released by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights, names 55 schools, including Hunter, that are under investigation for violating Title IX laws. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.

“Hunter College is on this list because, 15 months ago, a student filed a complaint, then six months later withdrew it,” John Rose, Hunter College’s Dean for Diversity and Compliance said in a statement. “As is OCR’s frequent practice, they used the occasion as an opportunity for a general review of how Hunter handles complaints related to alleged sexual misconduct.”

The statement went on to say that Hunter College has used the incident as an opportunity to improve and update the information and services the school provides to its students. The school recently held a town hall meeting to inform students of available resources in the case of sexual assault or harassment.

The list represents the first time that the Department has released comprehensive information about institutions under investigation. In the past, the Department would only confirm investigations on an individual basis.

"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," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a statement. "We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue."

However, the Department said it would not disclose any facts or details pertaining to a specific case until an investigation was closed.

The Department also emphasized that just because an institution was named on the list did not mean that it had it violated federal law. An investigation may be triggered by a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights or simply as a part of a compliance review to ensure a school is following federal law.

Schools that are found to violate Title IX law risk losing federal funding.

The release of the list comes on the heels of the White House’s announcement earlier this week of new guidelines designed to help schools decrease the growing problem with rape on many campuses. The guidelines also include resources to help victims file complaints against institutions that fail to meet their responsibilities.

Hunter College isn’t the only New York City school to make headlines over the issue recently.

Last week, 23 Barnard and Columbia students filed a complaint claiming that the university regularly violates federal regulations for handling sexual assault on campus.