INDIANAPOLIS -- As U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announces her plans to re-vamp the Obama-era guidelines for Title IX enforcement, over a dozen sexual violence investigations remain open in the state of Indiana.
Title IX is the 1972 federal civil rights law that requires universities to investigate reports of sexual misconduct and decide whether the students involved violated the university’s code of conduct.
To date, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights has conducted 435 investigations of colleges and universities across the country for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence.
So far, 360 remain open, and 75 cases have been resolved.
DeVos announced Thursday that she would be working to create new guidelines for colleges and universities on how to better protect students who are accused. She said the system established by the prior administration had "failed too many survivors and victims" of false accusations.
"One student's rights cannot be paramount to the rights of another," said DeVos.
Currently, in Indiana, 16 sexual assault cases remain open and unresolved at nine different colleges and universities.
Name of University or College
Current Number of Open Title IX Investigations
Ball State University
Grace College and Seminary
Indiana University Bloomington
IU Purdue at Fort Wayne
Purdue University at West Lafayette
University of Notre Dame
Only two Title IX investigations have been resolved in Indiana, records show.
For example, Notre Dame and the Office for Civil Rights reached a resolution in 2011 in which Notre Dame agreed to take several steps to strengthen its sexual violence policies including to better publicize how students can file reports.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime…Whenever reported, it must be promptly investigated by civil authorities and prosecuted in a courtroom, not a faculty lounge. Questions of guilt or innocence must be decided by a judge and jury, with guilt determined beyond a reasonable doubt. Those convicted of sexual assault should be punished to the full extent of the law. The Administration’s distortion of Title IX to micro manage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted before it further muddles this complex issue and prevents the proper authorities from investigating and prosecuting sexual assault effectively with due process.”
Dr. Mahri Irvine, director of campus initiatives for the Indiana Coalition To End Sexual Assault, said it’s a misconception that universities conduct criminal investigations.
“They’re not involved in criminal investigations, they’re involved in student investigations, and that’s a really important distinction for us to make,” said Irvine.
Irvine and other campus leaders have been eagerly awaiting the Trump administration’s interpretation of Title IX.
Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term that includes sexual harassment, sexual assault/rape, domestic violence, and stalking.
University Title IX offices can receive a sexual misconduct report from a number of sources including police, student affairs offices, and employees who are required to report allegations of sexual misconduct.
Universities are facing increased federal scrutiny and public expectations when it comes to how they handle sexual misconduct.
They currently risk losing federal funding if they fail to comply with Title IX requirements.