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Federal investigations of IU’s Title IX complaints cleared, but it’s not over yet

IU entered a formal agreement with the Department of Education following multiple federal investigations of the University's sexual misconduct policies.

The resolution will seek the creation of two "working groups," or committees, organized to study IU's practices of sexual assault training, education and prevention.

While the resolution stated IU-Bloomington’s involvement in this agreement did not reflect any wrongdoing found in the DOE's review of University policy, IU will continue reflection of its sexual misconduct response and education efforts, while providing updates to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

As of last semester, five federal investigations into IU’s sexual misconduct practices had been opened — the first dating back to 2014. Of the 242 postsecondary institutions that were under investigation, IU was one of only three schools with at least five open cases. Those five cases included a compliance review by the OCR and four individual complaints against the University after the compliance review said Emily Springston, IU's Title IX coordinator. 

The OCR conducts compliance reviews to determine if IU's policies are in line with civil rights laws.

At least one of these cases was reported to have been opened in response to a students' complaint that IU mishandled her University sexual misconduct hearing.

Because IU is a public university that receives federal funding, it is required to adhere to Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in public education. As a part of the law, schools are required to address sexual misconduct on campus.

“It certainly doesn't mean anything we're doing stops, but it resolves what has been a very thorough, comprehensive review by Office of Civil Rights,” Springston said.

Since 2014, the OCR reviewed more than 450 case files at IU Bloomington, according to a statement from IU Provost Lauren Robel. The cases cover between 2011 and 2015. IU also conducted student focus groups, individual interviews with students and employees and responded to six requests for information from the OCR. 

The OCR requested IU create its working group and greek working group by June 30, 2018. By that time IU is also requested to provide a written narrative for the current academic year that shows IU completed training and education programs for students and employees.

The general working group will help identify areas of concern where sexual misconduct may be more prevalent to suggest changes to existing plans for response and prevention. It will be made up of representatives from various IU offices including the Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy, IU Police Department, representative faculty members and students and other organizations.

The greek working group will do much of the same work to address sexual misconduct, specifically within greek life. It will be made up of certain members of the general working group as well as other staff and students familiar with greek life. The group is also asked to consult with either someone from within IU or an outside consultant as an expert who has experience preventing sexual misconduct in greek organizations.

IU will submit a report by Aug. 31, 2018, according to the resolution agreement, to address its steps taken to strengthen efforts responding to sexual misconduct and IU’s work toward preventing it. OCR representatives are also able to visit IU to interview staff and students, as well as request additional reports until IU has fulfilled the obligations of the compliance agreement.

"While this action resolves OCR's audit, it does not end IU-Bloomington's commitment or obligations to our students, faculty and staff," Robel said in a press release. "We take this issue very seriously and will continue to provide rigorous education and training as we work to create a safe campus environment." 

The IDS has reached out to IU for comment and will update this story with more details.

Read the resolution agreement in full:

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