LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — A group of USC students held a news conference Monday to discuss a Department of Education investigation into the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.
According to the group, the recently launched investigation was prompted by complaints the students filed with the department’s Office of Civil Rights. In the complaint, more than 100 students — 13 of them identified by name — recounted what they described as USC’s “gross mishandling of rape and sexual assault cases.”
The group was coordinated by Tucker Reed, a USC student who said she was raped by her boyfriend in 2010. Reed described the school’s handling of the case on a blog, and is the founder of the campus group Student Coalition Against Rape (SCAR).
“I blogged openly about the details of my rape and the university’s abuses,” Reed said, addressing reporters near an entrance to the campus, “and watched as my inbox filled with messages from fellow students who had experienced the same injustices and the same silencing.”
USC is “strongly committed to upholding civil rights,” according to a printed news release issued Monday by the university’s Office of Equity and Diversity. The statement was distributed by a campus official who declined to speak to reporters.
“In all reported instances, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate disciplinary, as well as interim remedial, action,” according to a statement from USC’s Division of Student Affairs released in May. “Previous investigations have resulted in a wide variety of sanctions, up to the dismissal of students from the university, including in cases where no criminal charges were filed.”
The students said they were coordinating with victims of sexual assault at other schools — including Occidental College, UC Berkeley and Yale — many of which have received complaints for alleged violations of Title IX.
“The university is strongly committed to upholding all aspects of Title IX. We have received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education notifying us of a complaint by two USC students alleging Title IX violations. The opening of an investigation is an expected step in the process, and the OCR states that ‘opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits,” USC Title IX coordinator Jody Shipper wrote in a statement
“We look forward to working with OCR to address any concerns and review our protocols as needed. The university, working with the Women Students Assembly and other groups, updated our sexual assault reporting guidelines in 2011-12. More recently, and prior to the filing of this complaint, USC began an ongoing review of policies and procedures in light of updated federal guidelines. The university remains vigilant in addressing any issues promptly and fully as they arise,” Shipper wrote.
In April, KTLA reported that 12 Occidental students filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education on alleging that the school failed to protect women from sexual assaults.