University of Idaho was named on a list released Thursday consisting of 55 colleges and universities under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for possible violations of Title IX for handling of sexual violence complaints. This was the first time a list of ongoing Title IX investigations had been made publicly available by the OCR, and marks an important benchmark for changing the campus culture of sexual assault.
Title IX of the Educational Amendments was passed in 1972 to protect people from sexual discrimination in federally assisted educational programs and activities. The OCR is tasked with the enforcement of Title IX and investigating potential infractions. UI’s presence on Thursday’s list represents action taken as a result of a sexual harassment complaint stating that the university allegedly failed to provide a prompt and effective grievance procedure.
UI’s presence on the list should serve as a reminder of the ever-present problem of sexual violence on college campuses. The list included a range of institutions from Ivy League universities to smaller colleges located across the country.
It was released as part of a recommendation from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which was founded in January 2014 as part of the Obama administration’s initiative to reduce sexual assaults.
This nationwide open dialogue on sexual assault raises awareness for an important issue. Recently, the task force coordinated with the White House’s “1 is 2 Many” campaign and released a PSA featuring male celebrities that encouraged men to be part of preventing sexual violence by speaking up and seeking clear consent from sexual partners.
This PSA and the actions taken by the task force represent an important shift in society’s attitude toward sexual assault. Far too often, women are taught that the responsibility lies with them to prevent sexual assault by investing in self-defense measures, not traveling alone and always keeping their guard high. By encouraging men to be involved in the conversation, the PSA takes the important step of getting both genders involved in ending sexual violence.
Students should not leave the campaign to end sexual violence to the White House. UI should take this investigation as an opportunity to grow and have an open conversation about sexual assault on campus. There are several programs on campus that students can work with to address sexual violence issues. One such program, Vandal Green Dot, encourages bystanders to actively prevent violence. Get in touch with them to learn what we can all do every day to end violence against women.