Sexual assault gained attention on the campus when a group of students, faculty members, and alumni filed a federal complaint in April 2013 that accused the college of mishandling sexual-assault cases.
The college later reached a monetary settlement with some of the current and former students who were involved in the filing of that complaint. Several months later, the Education Department identified Occidental on an initial list of 55 institutions facing a federal inquiry for potential Title IX violations over their handling of sexual-violence cases.
In December 2013, the Los Angeles Times published an article stating that the college had failed to disclose 27 alleged assaults that were said to have occurred in 2012. But the Times later corrected the story, saying that the allegations in question did not fall under the requirements of the campus-safety law known as the Clery Act. The Times also said that the reporter on the story had had an "inappropriate relationship" with a source for the reporter's coverage of sexual assault at Occidental.
Students and others on the campus have repeatedly protested the college's handling of alleged assaults.
A former student who was accused of sexual assault has filed two lawsuits against the college after being found responsible for sexual misconduct and expelled. One lawsuit accused the college of trampling his due-process rights, and the other accused the college of gender bias.
In October 2014, the Times published a story about an outside audit that outlined dozens of steps the college had taken to improve its handling of alleged assault. But some individuals on the campus were deeply critical of the report on that audit, saying that it had failed to account for the perspectives of assault survivors. A "stark polarization" that existed on campus threatened to derail the college's progress on sexual assault, the report stated.
The institution has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to victims of sexual assault and says it has taken many steps to improve its policies and its climate. Summaries of those steps can be found in the president's numerous letters to the campus, and details on the college's policies can be found in its online resources page.
The Education Department is also investigating Occidental's compliance with the crime-reporting law known as the Clery Act.
This letter is to inform you that the U.S. Department of Education (the Department), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), has completed its investigation of the above-referenced complaint against Occidental College (College).
This 10-page document bundle includes letters from the Education Department to the college and complainant informing them that an investigation is being opened and requesting data from the college.
This investigation was based on a federal complaint filed on behalf of 46 students, former students, and employees, but the Office for Civil Rights examined the allegations of only one student. Unlike other complainants, OCR said, that student had filed timely claims, given the office consent to proceed, and not settled with the college.
The government found insufficient evidence that the college had violated Title IX, created a sexually hostile environment, or retaliated against students and faculty members who advocated for policy changes. But federal officials raised concerns about Occidental’s lag in resolving several sexual-misconduct cases, “actions by college administrators to discourage students from speaking up about their experiences with sexual violence,” and a finding from a campus climate survey that many victims of sexual assault were not reporting the incidents.
The assistant secretary for civil rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, praised Occidental’s progress on the issue, including revisions to its sexual-misconduct policy. “OCR’s investigation found a campus actively engaged in important work to satisfy Title IX responsibilities for all students,” she said in a statement. “Where we had concerns, Occidental leaders committed to taking appropriate steps to ensure student safety.”
Under the resolution agreement, the college agreed, among other things, to offer mandatory annual training for all employees on the Title IX grievance process and how to prevent retaliation, provide OCR with three years of complaint files to monitor their prompt resolution, and continue to conduct an annual climate survey.
“The close of this investigation does not mean an end to our efforts to make Oxy safe for all of our students,” the college’s president, Jonathan Veitch, said in an email to the campus. “Doing what’s required by the law doesn’t go far enough.” The college scheduled two town halls to discuss the government’s findings.
An Occidental College student who was expelled after being found in violation of school policy for having sex with a 17-year-old female classmate when he was a freshman sued the Eagle Rock campus today, alleging gender bias.
A drunk freshman boy met a drunk freshman girl in this dorm at Occidental College. When their sexual encounter collided with a panicked and pressured academic bureaucracy, it quickly became a disaster.