Washington: For the first time, the US has named 55 colleges and universities, including prestigious ones like the Harvard, Emory, Tufts and Princeton, for their failure to properly handle sexual assault cases on the campus.
Federal investigators are checking whether 55 colleges and universities illegally handled sexual violence and harassment complaints, the US Department of Education said as the White House released alarming official figures to indicate that one in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they are in college.
It was the first time that the Department of Education had made public a comprehensive list of colleges under probe for potential violations of federal anti discrimination law. The law prohibits gender discrimination at colleges that receive federal money, the New York Times reported.
“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,” said Catherine Lhamon, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights.
The University of California, Berkeley said it will cooperate with the investigation and added that its chancellor had sent out a letter to campus saying sexual assault would not be tolerated.
“Much has been done to strengthen the campus’ handling of these issues, but we understand that there is always room for improvement,” CNN quoted the university as saying.
The list of 55 educational institutions was made public three days after the White House released a report drafted by a sexual assault task force aimed at pressuring schools to better comply with federal law and prevent sexual attacks.
A White House task force has recommended that colleges provide better assurance of confidentiality to those who report such crimes; conduct standardised, anonymous surveys on campus assaults; and train bystanders in how to intervene.
Despite the significant progress made in reducing violence against women, there is still a long way to go, the White House said, noting that most often, sexual assault happens during the freshman or sophomore year.
“Young women still face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college,” it said.
“Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault. No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need – like a confidential place to go – and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Vice President Joe Biden said recently.