The University of Hawaii at Manoa is one of the higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. That's according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa released a statement saying, "The list does not differentiate between the schools that — like UH Manoa — have been selected for proactive compliance reviews, versus those schools that are under audit based on a complaint. OCR investigators have been on the UH Manoa campus this week meeting with a variety of groups and individuals, including students, faculty, staff, administrators and regents."
The UH statement continues, "Investigative team members stated to UH Manoa executives toward the end of their visit that it was important to keep in mind that this audit was not triggered by a complaint, and that it was not based on an individual incident. Rather, this audit was the result of a selection process that the Department uses nationally to evaluate how colleges and universities across the country are responding to Title IX requirements regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence."
"The audit is a productive opportunity to see how else we can enhance student safety, above and beyond what we’re doing already. We anticipate a forward-thinking negotiated resolution with the Office of Civil Rights that will enhance the safety of our UH Manoa campus," said UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple.
In the past, Department officials confirmed individual Title IX investigations at institutions, but Thursday's list is the first comprehensive look at which campuses are under review by OCR for possible violations of the law’s requirements around sexual violence.
"We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said. "We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university’s appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law."
As with all OCR investigations, the primary goal of a Title IX investigation is to ensure that the campus is in compliance with federal law, which demands that students are not denied the ability to participate fully in educational and other opportunities due to sex.
The Department will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation, aside from when the investigation began. The list includes investigations opened because of complaints received by OCR and those initiated by OCR as compliance reviews.
When an investigation concludes, the Department will disclose, upon request, whether OCR has entered into a resolution agreement to address compliance concerns at a particular campus or found insufficient evidence of a Title IX violation there.
Releasing this list advances a key goal of President Obama’s White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to bring more transparency to the federal government’s enforcement activities around this issue.
The Education Department released updated guidance earlier this week describing the responsibilities of colleges, universities and schools receiving federal funds to address sexual violence and other forms of sex discrimination under Title IX. The guidelines provide greater clarity about the requirements of the law around sexual violence – as requested by institutions and students.
All colleges, and universities and K-12 schools receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX. Schools that violate the law and refuse to address the problems identified by OCR can lose federal funding or be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.
Under federal law, sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent - including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.
OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.
Additional information about the office is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.