James Madison University is the third Virginia college to come under federal scrutiny for the way it handles sexual assault and harassment complaints.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a total of 62 public and private institutions around the country, and initiated the investigation into JMU on June 4.
“We’re aware of the investigation and we’re working with the Office of Civil Rights to resolve the matter,” said Bill Wyatt, a spokesman for JMU.
Wyatt said he could not comment on the case or the complaint that initiated the investigation because of privacy laws.
JMU takes allegations of sexual assault seriously, the university wrote in a statement about the investigation.
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued a report in April raising awareness about the magnitude of college students who are victims of sexual assault, along with guidelines for how colleges should respond to such complaints.
In spite of that, there is little transparency in the Office of Civil Rights investigations.
“We don’t discuss our civil rights investigations,” an Education Department spokesman said in an email.
An initial list of 55 colleges under investigation — which included the University of Virginia, added in June 2011, and the College of William and Mary, added in April — was published on the DOE’s website May 1, with a press release indicating that although the list will be updated regularly, the information would only be available by request.
“The Department will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation,” the statement says. “The list includes investigations opened because of complaints received by OCR and those initiated by OCR as compliance reviews.”
When investigations are closed, the department will only disclose its findings upon request.
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