University News

Education Dept. opens Title IX investigation of Brown

Decision puts U.’s sexual assault policies under federal spotlight

By
Metro Editor

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation of the University’s handling of sexual assault cases July 10, adding Brown to a list of 68 colleges and universities currently under federal investigation for Title IX violations regarding sexual assault.

The department announced the move last week and notified the University on Friday.

Brown is one of 13 schools added to the list since the OCR began publishing it publicly May 1, the Huffington Post reported.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed May 14 by Legal Momentum, a nonprofit advocating for women’s and girls’ legal rights, which claimed that the University violated Title IX in handling the alleged rape of Lena Sclove ’15.5. The complaint said the University had failed to impose an appropriate sanction and effectively respond to Sclove’s report when she was allegedly raped by another Brown student last summer, The Herald previously reported.

The complaint is the only one related to sexual assault that has been filed against the University since the OCR began keeping records in 2009, NPR reported.

The OCR investigation will examine whether the University has “responded promptly and effectively” to complaints and reports of sexual harassment “with particular emphasis on complaints of sexual assault,” said Christina Brandt-Young, senior staff attorney at Legal Momentum and Sclove’s legal counsel.

Under Title IX, which was created to ban gender-based discrimination in education, colleges and universities must “take immediate action” to eliminate, prevent recurrence of and address the effects of harassment, according to the Obama administration’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter issued by the OCR.

“Brown will fully cooperate with the Department of Education during the review,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.

The investigation follows President Christina Paxson’s May 2 campus-wide email, which stated the goal of moving Brown to the forefront of national efforts to combat campus sexual assault. Paxson also announced the creation of a sexual assault task force and a search to hire a full-time Title IX coordinator.

Senior administrators are consulting with peer institutions to study the Title IX coordinator position this summer and will continue with the hiring process in the fall, wrote Mark Nickel, acting director of news and communications, in an email to The Herald.

“The OCR will take into account what Brown thinks it could do to improve,” Brandt-Young said, adding that most Title IX investigations end in “voluntary resolution agreements,” in which the school agrees to make changes to its policy regarding harassment, including sexual violence.

The OCR’s goal is “to resolve all complaints within 180 days of their receipt,” wrote Jim Bradshaw, Education Department spokesman, in an email to The Herald. But “some resolutions take longer in light of the complexity of the issues involved.”

The investigation and negotiation processes for other Title IX complaints have taken “anywhere from months to years,” Brandt-Young said.

But in an April report, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault imposed a 90-day limit on negotiations for institutions under investigation for the handling of sexual assault complaints. “The investigation is likely to go faster in 2014 than it might have in previous years,” Brandt-Young said.

If the University is unable to reach a voluntary resolution agreement after 90 days of negotiation, enforcement efforts will begin, Brandt-Young said, adding that the primary sanction for noncompliance with Title IX is revocation of a school’s federal funding.

“That’s not what we’re seeking,” Brandt-Young said, adding that Sclove’s goal is to prompt Brown to change its policies to “keep students safe from and after sexual assault.”

  • ’15

    Many of Lena’s statements contradict the written record, including her own. It’s a goddamn shame the BDH doesn’t have the integrity to correct its account.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/229611513/Daniel-Kopin-Letter-to-Office-for-Civil-Rights-Usdoe-6-11-14

    • ’51

      I picked up from the story that 1. a victim was intoxicated; and 2. a perp was forceful with his hands around the victim’s neck, at least twice. Those two things remained constant throughout the rebuttal letter. The rest is a lot of words. I take it therefore that a rape took place, that Brown University punished the perp but did not do so promptly enough, and in any case not adequately. Therefore this Department of Education investigation is warranted. The cut-off of federal funding to Brown University will also be warranted. Look on the bright side: Chris Paxson is not working out well as a president anyway. She is too flakey even for Brown.

    • ’17

      It’s terribly sad, but shouldn’t be viewed as shocking. After one year here, I’m thoroughly convinced that there’s a large contingent (but thankfully, a minority) of students who would prefer to live in some sort of distopian dictatorship where they an simply decide, on the grounds of their own personal prejudices (and of course, no one’s allowed to hurt their feelings, or “trigger” them, or else they’ll be indefinitely ostracized), who gets punished and who doesn’t. It’s absolutely ridiculous that this case has gone this far, but is the perfect illustration of the absurdity and absolute outrage of the decision to decide these cases with a “preponderance of the evidence” (read: flip of a coin) standard. I suppose it just reflects the anti-intellectualism of today’s BuzzFeed driven media; a bunch of privileged twentysomethings who have never had to work a day in their life, and who are just oh so desperate to make the white man the bad guy, and to make their adversary the “good guy” (cue complains about sexism of my use of “guy” and how it contributes to the patriarchal normalization of men). It’s pathetic and disgraceful that this University is so driven by a desire to please liberal bloggers (read: humanities majors who couldn’t get jobs) that has completely disregarded any notion of equality under the law.

      • Also ’17

        Yes yes yes perfectly worded, I’ve been thinking these exact thoughts through out the case (and, believe it or not, I’m a girl). The administration bends to a mob of belligerent activists/hyper-feminists whose power comes out of social media hysteria and politically correct extremism, that rational people like you and I dare not question publicly for fear of being labeled a sexist, racist, etc. Meanwhile, scholarly thought, critical thinking, and a respect for due process seem all but forgotten (although I constantly remind myself that this is only within the highly vocal minority). The irony is that while these people claim to be seeking women’s equality, in their eyes a woman is completely not responsible for her behavior and will “faint” or “go into hysterics” upon emotional triggering. The strong, independent woman is really a delicate, fainting blossom who must be protected at all costs (god forbid she be forced to speak to the police after the trauma of a drunken hook up!). Anyway, thanks for this post… I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

        • Coco Royce

          In Ferguson, Missouri, a cop can shoot anybody and suffer no consequence. At Brown University, a student can rape anybody and suffer no consequence (while the rest of university community have to bear blowhard writing by gollygee stupid students).

          • ’17

            Coco, first of all, while I am almost certain that Michael Brown in Ferguson was inappropriately shot (although, admittedly, I don’t know all the facts), we live in a civil society, and that cop is under investigation in our system of due process. If you don’t like that and would prefer that he be lynched by a mob, pick another country to live in where that sort of thing is accepted. In the meantime, however, freedom and civility have consequences (this seems shocking to a lot of students here), one of which is the existence of due process for individuals who are likely to be guilty.

            I’m not sure if you’re referencing the Lena case or not, but I’ll assume you are. You’re 100% wrong that Daniel Kopin isn’t subject to consequences – he was suspended for one year, found guilty of an extremely damning offense, de facto forced out of this University, and publicly slandered in a way that is inappropriate for cases of this nature (i.e. handled internally by a university – if she wanted to publicly slander him she should have used the court systems, which are always at her disposal). If you read the brief submitted by Kopin’s lawyers that the first commenter put up, you’ll notice that a key, and I would argue the key aspect to the question of the appropriateness of his punishment (determined by the question of guilt, and if the existence thereof, the extent) is that the man who informed him, “You’re life will never be the same”, did not even know the proceedings of the case. He just knew that the mere existence of an accusation, regardless of the merits thereof, would invariably result in a life-changing punishment. Lena has continually escalated her claims throughout this media charade, unchecked by a spineless media and university that is fearful of seeming sexist or unconcerned. Kopin is been tried and hung in the Court of Public Opinion for his sin of being accused.

            Let me be crystal clear so you do not misunderstand. He is not guilty. He did not rape her (or so all the available evidence we have suggests). Her own statements to the University seem sufficient grounds upon which to exonerate him, and yet he is given a one-year suspension and a permanent stain on his record out of the university’s desire to carry out what is essentially a college version of the disastrous and outrageous “War on Drugs” that has destroyed communities and made a mockery of our systems of justice and law enforcement. This is a truly sad case of the failure of the “due process” universities like ours offer, and a chilling illumination of the dangers of trying these cases under a preponderance of the evidence standard. That is without even taking into account the dangerous levels of bias that exist here (giving Kopin an incompetent faculty adviser, as the University has done in all comparable cases).

            Kopin, sadly, is not alone. This is exactly what happened in the cases of Adam Lack and William McCormick. The real problem here is the assumption of guilt along gender lines, which is indicative of two fundamental problems; the first of which is a blatant lack of respect for the important legal notions of presumed innocence, the burden of proof being on the affirmative, an impartial justice system, and a clear standard of proof that corresponds to the nature of the punishments the system has to hand out. The second of which, the more relevant and dangerous of the two, is the wild lack of impartiality. Put simply, people on her side WANT her accusations to be true, and believe it BECAUSE she is the girl. It is EXACT same thing as believing a suspect is guilty because they are black (preemptive response to the “white people can’t be racist because they’re favored by the powers that be” argument – yes, even if we take this as true, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that individuals who have claim to oppression on the grounds of externally visible characteristics have more social power in liberal universities today, meaning that if anything, racism/sexism, etc exist predominately in the other direction. Lena falsely accusing Dan of rape and having the power to destroy his life because she is a girl and he a boy is exactly the definition of “structural privilege” or whatever you want to call it), and exactly the same thing as believing that a rape accusation is false on the grounds that a woman is accusing a man. It is the most profoundly antithetical thing to “equality under the law”, “justice is blind”, etc.

            Like Also ’17 said, what Lena is doing is a terrible thing for women as a whole by creating the assumption that accusations are likely to be false, that women (and this principle applies to other socially disadvantaged groups) are incapable of having a legitimate discussion and must be intellectually pampered via “trigger warnings”, etc. To me, all that actions like these do are reinforce societal stereotypes that are not true (or at the very least, are not necessarily true), which damage the cause of women (or whatever the group may be). It’s tragic, but as long as the current cultural dynamics of our university continue, it seems unlikely to change.

          • Also ’17

            ’17, since I can’t send you a private message on this thing, you should send me an email at 3qRKdEbh34pZ7gQ@gmail.com (This is just an anonymous address that will automatically forward to my brown.edu account, since I don’t want to publish my actual username on this forum). It would be nice to meet you in person.

          • ’17

            To compare Lena Sclove to Mayella Ewell and Brown students who protested on her behalf (or to be fair, those who continued to take her side after more information was exposed) to Maycomb, AL residents would be far too generous, in my mind.