Section: News

Federal investigation launched into College’s Title IX policy

On Sept. 12, Kenyon administrators learned that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has began an investigation of the College’s implementation of Title IX policy.

The investigation adds Kenyon to the list of 272 other colleges and universities across the country that are undergoing similar examinations of their general handling of Title IX cases.

Students and employees were notified of the investigation on Sept. 13 via Student and Employee-Info email. The email, prepared by the Office of Communications, said the College is “cooperating fully” with federal investigators.

Civil Rights and Title IX Coordinator Samantha Hughes said the OCR notified President Sean Decatur with a letter; Decatur then informed several senior administrators. The News Bulletin was released via email the following day.

“[The investigation] means a complaint has been brought to the Office of Civil Rights against those institutions,” Decatur said. Instead of pursuing individual cases, Decatur said the investigation will focus on general handling of sexual misconduct cases. He also emphasized the length of the investigation process.

“The average time right now … is about one and half years to complete an investigation,” he said. Title IX is a federal policy which legally penalizes discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence, among other issues for institutions recieving federal funds, according to Kenyon’s website.

The Title IX policy applies to all forms of sexual and gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, bullying and retaliation, according to the College’s website.

This investigation arrives after the College’s Title IX policy was already under public scrutiny after a viral letter written by Michael Hayes ’14 detailed the negative experience of his sister with the policy, a former student.

When asked about what catalyzed the investigation, Hughes stated privacy laws prohibited the College from commenting on specific Title IX cases when asked about what catalyzed the investigation.

“Any person has the right [to report to the OCR], and they don’t have to have been involved in a case particularly,” Hughes said. “It can be any person who feels that the College is not fulfilling their legal, federally mandated obligation under Title IX.”

The College will likely not hear from the Office of Civil Rights for a long period of time, due to the large backlog of cases within the federal office.

Decatur said he was unsure of the deadline to submit information to the OCR.

He believes the current audit of the College’s Title IX compliance, conducted by independent Title IX investigator and consultant Rebecca Veidlinger. may speed up the OCR’s investigative process, because pertinent information is already being collected.

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