Princeton University Found in Violation of Title IX, Reaches Agreement with U.S. Education Department to Address, Prevent Sexual Assault and Harassment of Students

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Princeton University Found in Violation of Title IX, Reaches Agreement with U.S. Education Department to Address, Prevent Sexual Assault and Harassment of Students

November 5, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as it applies to sexual harassment and violence. The action follows an OCR investigation which found Princeton to be in violation of Title IX.

“I applaud Princeton University for its commitment to ensuring a community-wide culture of prevention, support, and safety for its students, staff, and community,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Princeton to implement this agreement."

OCR’s investigation determined Princeton to be in violation of Title IX for failing to promptly and equitably respond to complaints of sexual violence, including sexual assault, and also failing to end the sexually hostile environment for one student. In addition, the policies and procedures used by the university to investigate and respond to assaults and violence did not comply with Title IX.

However, OCR concluded that the university did comply with Title IX by designating and providing notice of its Title IX coordinator and by providing and publicizing compliant notices of nondiscrimination. OCR’s probe was based on complaints filed on behalf of university students.

This fall, Princeton implemented new consolidated policies and procedures that correct many of the deficiencies identified in OCR’s investigation.

Importantly, the university will use the correct “preponderance of the evidence” standard to investigate sexual assault and violence allegations. The new policies also make clear that both parties will be provided appeal rights, cases will be handled in prompt timeframes (generally 45 days), and state Princeton’s commitment to provide appropriate interim measures to preserve a complainant’s educational experience, promote safety for all, and deter retaliation.

Princeton also agreed to take numerous other steps to ensure that these revised policies are effective in creating a campus environment in which students feel comfortable and safe reporting incidents of sexual assault and violence.

The school has also committed to take campus safety seriously and respond to complaints promptly and equitably. In addition, as part of its monitoring of the agreement, OCR will analyze the institution’s new policies and procedures in detail to determine if any revisions, in addition to those highlighted above, are necessary. Specifically, Princeton has agreed to:

  • Publicize and provide a comprehensive education and prevention program that educates the university community (staff and students) about the school’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault/violence, as well as the support services and resources available to students.
  • Develop and implement a public awareness and bystander intervention campaign aimed at educating students about sexual assault/violence and safe strategies for intervention.
  • Conduct annual climate checks with students to assess the steps and measures taken by the university as part of the resolution agreement and use the information to inform future proactive steps to achieve its goal of a campus free of sexual misconduct -- in particular, sexual assault/violence.
  • Annually track and report to OCR on the university’s responses and handling of all sexual assault/violence allegations.
  • Take steps to improve communication and coordination with local law enforcement agencies, specifically to address the protocols and procedures for referring allegations of sexual assault/violence, sharing information, and conducting contemporaneous investigations.
  • Reexamine all complaints filed from academic year 2011-2012 to Sept. 1, 2014, to determine whether each complaint was handled appropriately and take appropriate action to address any problems identified in the manner in which these complaints were handled, including providing appropriate remedies that may still be available for the complainants in these cases, such as counseling or academic adjustments.
  • Provide the students identified in the complaints with remedies relating to the educational and other expenses incurred from the date on which each student first reported alleged sexual assault/violence to the university to the date of resolution.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here, and the agreement is posted here.

OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.

For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, please click here.