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SMU Among 55 Colleges Investigated For Possible Violations Over Handling Sex Assaults

Brad Wilson
Flickr Creative Commons
Southern Methodist University's iconic Dallas Hall

Southern Methodist University is one of 55 colleges nationwide under federal investigation for possible violations over handling sexual violence and harassment complaints. It's one of two institutions listed in Texas. 

Release of the list is unprecedented. Colleges range from Ivy League institutions to public state universities.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights won’t release any specifics about the Title IX inquiry. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs receiving federal dollars.  

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a statement: "We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue.” She also said that because a college or university is on this list doesn’t mean the school is violating or has violated the law.

The institutions under investigation for Title IX sexual violence issues will be updated regularly and made available to the public upon request by contacting OCR.

Earlier this week, the White House said that one in five female students is attacked, and President Obama named a task force to examine the issue.

The other Texas institution on the list is the University of Texas-Pan American, which is in Edinburg.

In March, an SMU female student sued the school and a man she accused of raping her on campus. Donald Cuba was acquitted in part because physical evidence was washed, and the woman did not get a rape exam after the alleged 2012 incident. Cuba sued the woman and her family for defamation, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Recent history points to a longer list of reported sexual assaults on campus. At least 40 have been reported in the last eight years, according to the SMU Daily Campus student newspaper. Nearly all reports came from SMU students.

On Thursday afternoon, SMU released a statement, saying it applauds the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to eradicate sexual violence on college campuses:

SMU applauds the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to eradicate sexual violence on college campuses and to provide universities with additional tools to combat sexual assault. Our goals are the same.   The matters under review by the Education Department have been investigated by SMU and predate our University task force review of sexual misconduct policies and procedures. The University has been aggressive in putting into practice wide-ranging new procedures to inform and protect our students, to provide prompt and effective resolution of complaints, and to hold violators accountable while treating all students fairly.  SMU continually reviews and updates its programs in comparison with national benchmarks, and we are pleased that the White House also has made these matters a priority for all American universities. No issue is more important than the health and safety of our students.

Which colleges made the list?

• Arizona State University

• Butte-Glen Community College District

• Occidental College

• University of California-Berkeley

• University of Southern California

• Regis University

• University of Colorado at Boulder

• University of Colorado at Denver

• University of Denver

• University of Connecticut

• Catholic University of America

• Florida State University

• Emory University

• University of Hawaii at Manoa

• University of Idaho

• Knox College

• University of Chicago

• Indiana University-Bloomington

• Vincennes University

• Amherst College

• Boston University

• Emerson College

• Harvard College

• Harvard University - Law School

• University of Massachusetts-Amherst

• Frostberg State University

• Michigan State University

• University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

• Guilford College

• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

• Minot State University

• Dartmouth College

• Princeton University

• Cuny Hunter College

• Hobar and William Smith Colleges

• Sarah Lawrence College

• Suny at Binghamton

• Denison University

• Ohio State University

• Wittenberg University

• Oklahoma State University

• Carnegie Mellon University

• Franklin and Marshall College

• Pennsylvania State University

• Swarthmore College

• Temple University

• Vanderbilt University

• Southern Methodist University

• The University of Texas Pan-American

• College of William and Mary

• University of Virginia

• Washington State University

• University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

• Bethany College

• West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.