The Department of Education named Princeton as one of 55 colleges and universities currently under federal investigation for sexual violence complaints on Thursday. The case, which has been reported in the past, has been ongoing since 2010.
The list is the first of its sort to be released naming all universities under federal investigation for alleged violations of Title IX, a law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds. Previously, the Department of Education would confirm the existence of an investigation only if they received an inquiry.
This information release is part of a White House initiative that seeks to curtail sexual assault cases on university campuses.
Jane Glickman, press officer at the U.S. Department of Education, confirmed that there is currently one ongoing Title IX investigation against the University.
The complaint, filed by New England School of Law adjunct professor Wendy Murphy in November 2010, alleges that the University’s practices regarding sexual assault cases violated Title IX. The complaint was filed to the department’s Office for Civil Rights.
“They were violating the law when the complaints were opened for investigation,” Murphy said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
In Murphy’s complaint, she requested that the federal government make a statement establishing guidelines for universities across the country in handling sexual violence cases. She noted that some of the University’s violations included an unreasonably high burden of proof beyond the “clear proof by a preponderance of evidence” required by Title IX, and further cited “the problem of not applying the standard correctly and running out the clock or delaying the resolution” on sexual assault cases.
“I asked them to issue some form of global guidance because the problems at Harvard and Princeton were systemic in higher education,” she said.
Murphy also has open complaints against University of Virginia and Harvard Law School regarding their sexual assault policies. She successfully filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2002 that revoked its requirement for testimony from an independent third party before investigating a sexual assault accusation.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” in April 2011 to educational institutions, clarifying Title IX requirements regarding the prevention of sexual assault and providing recommendations for compliance.
Although the University revised its sexual misconduct policies in September 2011 to be in full compliance with Title IX, Murphy said that these changes were still not sufficient.
University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua declined to be interviewed but stated that the University will cooperate with the investigation. He added that the OCR has said that being a subject of a Title IX investigation does not indicate that a college or university has violated the law.