A Letter to the Community

June 9, 2016

Three years ago, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched a comprehensive, independent investigation into Occidental’s handling of sexual assault cases. Today, the OCR announced that it has closed its investigation and determined that Occidental did not violate Title IX, the federal gender equity law governing educational institutions. The OCR did find that three cases in 2012-13 took too long to resolve. In these three cases, however, the OCR also concluded that the case delays did not result in an inequitable response and did not create a hostile environment.

The close of this investigation does not mean an end to our efforts to make Oxy safe for all of our students. We have made significant progress in addressing the problem of sexual assault on campus, but there is much more that we need to do as a community to encourage survivors to come forward and to change campus culture to prevent sexual assault from occurring. Doing what’s required by the law doesn’t go far enough for Occidental. We want to continue to improve and do what’s best for our students and our community.

Therefore, as a first step in that continuing process, the College has signed a voluntary resolution agreement with the OCR to ensure continuing compliance with Title IX. We look forward to working with the OCR over the next three years, including seeking technical assistance as needed.

In accordance with Department of Education procedures, the OCR also has issued a resolution letter that addresses all allegations and issues in the case. The OCR does not release findings in advance of an announcement. We received it for the first time today and are now in the process of reviewing it. We have scheduled a town hall from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Monday, June 13 in Choi Auditorium to discuss the OCR’s findings. We will hold a second town hall meeting in the fall for the same purpose after faculty and students return to campus.

While the OCR has closed its investigation, a separate Department of Education review of Occidental’s compliance with Clery Act requirements for reporting sexual assaults and other crimes is still ongoing. We continue to await the results of that review, also launched three years ago.

I’m grateful to the members of the Oxy community who helped draw attention to the issue of sexual assault. I’d also like to thank the staff and faculty who have worked tirelessly over the past several years to support our students, shape and implement new policies, improve training and preventative education programs, and bring new resources to bear on this important issue. As difficult and painful as this process has been for our community, I hope we can join in a renewed commitment to working collaboratively in addressing and preventing sexual assault.

For those of you who are on campus or in town, I hope to see you at the town hall on Monday.

Jonathan Veitch
Occidental College