The Office for Civil Rights and the State University of New York have agreed to collaborate to investigate and improve on responses to complaints of sexual violence and harassment within the SUNY system, the U.S. Department of Education announced yesterday.
The investigation into the 29 state-operated campuses was not prompted by any complaint filed by an individual and was to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex on any federally funded education program.
The OCR began the investigation independently, and SUNY later entered into an agreement with OCR to voluntarily commit to a resolution to help protect victims and prevent further harassment, Gannett’s Ashley Hupfl.
“Nearly 219,000 students across the 29 state-operated campuses may now expect to go to school in an environment free from sexual violence and other forms of sexual harassment, thanks to this resolution,” Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights said in statement.
During the investigation, the OCR reviewed 159 individual cases from four SUNY campuses; SUNY Albany, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Buffalo State College, and SUNY Morrisville.
In some cases, they found instances where complainants did not receive prompt or adequate responses from SUNY, including not being provided opportunities to attend pre-hearing conferences and present evidence and witnesses at a hearing.
In response, SUNY has committed to initiate and continue the following actions to ensure compliance with Title IX. The SUNY system will:
• Ensure that response to complaints complies with Title IX requirements and provide relief is needed to the complainant.
• Investigate Title IX complaints instead of waiting for criminal investigations to finish beforehand.
• Have a designated Title IX coordinator at each campus.
• Annually review all sexual discrimination complaints and take action if found needed.
• Educate students and staff about Title IX and how to identify and report issues.
• Work with the campus community to evaluate and improve its sexual harassment policies and procedures.
• Each campus the OCR visited must reexamine all sexual harassment and violence complaints filed since the academic year 2011-2012 and must report to OCR about the actions will take to correct problems found.
“The successful culmination of this review affirms and recognizes that SUNY campuses across New York are now national models for Title IX compliance and training,” said David Doyle, a SUNY spokesman.
The OCR said it will continue to closely monitor SUNY’s committed initiatives