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Government Names 55 Colleges Facing Sexual Assault Investigations

WASHINGTON, DC -- For the first time, the federal government on Thursday named colleges and universities that are facing investigations into their handling of sexual assaults.
WASHINGTON, DC -- For the first time, the federal government on Thursday named colleges and universities that are facing investigations into their handling of sexual assaults.

Across the country there has been a steady drumbeat of college students protesting what they call a lack of attention to sexual assaults on campuses. The government says one in five women will be sexual assaulted before graduation.

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Students have protested the lack of attention to sexual attacks
CBS News

Catherine Lhamon is from the U.S. Department of Education.

"The president and the vice president both strongly called for greater transparency and a movement across the country for us to change campus cultures so that we are making sure that all of our students are safe," Lhamon said.

The 55 schools publicly named span from coast to coast and include renowned institutions such as Princeton, UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt and Harvard. All 55 are currently under investigation for violating Title IX, the federal law requiring schools to advise victims of their rights, conduct investigations and ensure victims' safety.

Harvard has had 100 cases of sexual assault reported over the last three years.

Just last month an assault victim there wrote an open letter in the college newspaper saying, "Our policy is so outdated and narrow in scope that it discourages survivors from entering an investigative process."

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Sarah Tedesco is part of a Title IX complaint against Emerson College in Boston.

"We should be equipping those students with what they need to know if it does happen," she said. "It's an epidemic.There are students at other schools committing suicide because nobody's listening to them."

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Sarah Tedesco
CBS News
Both Emerson and Harvard are currently revising their sexual assault policies.

Two days ago the White House announced plans to better educate universities on how to combat sexual violence on campus.

Victim advocates such as Colby Bruno think more can be done.

"I'd like to see some other rules promulgated that hits a school where it hurts, monetarily, and I think it would start to make schools pay attention to this," Bruno said.

She would like to see consequences?

"I would like to see consequences."

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To be clear, the schools named are under investigation and that does not mean they are guilty.

In addition to Harvard and Emerson, CBS News also contacted Princeton, Vanderbilt and UC Berkeley. All five universities told us they are fully cooperating with the investigations, and are committed to improvements.



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Colleges and universities across the country are facing sexual assault investigations
CBS News

Here are responses from some of the universities:

Harvard University
"Harvard, as a University and as a community, continues to take the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence extremely seriously. In that context, Harvard has taken a number of steps to foster prevention efforts and to support students who have experienced sexual misconduct. Last spring, Harvard appointed the first-ever University Title IX officer, who has since identified and trained Title IX coordinators at every Harvard School. In May 2013, Harvard's newly appointed University Title IX Officer convened a working group from across Harvard's schools to review existing policies and procedures. Over the course of last summer and fall, that group worked to develop a new Title IX policy that would apply to all students, staff, and faculty at every School or other unit at Harvard.

In recent weeks, Harvard formally submitted the completed policy and procedures to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for their review. After any OCR feedback is received, Harvard will move quickly to announce and implement them. Once in place, the new policy and procedures will significantly enhance how Harvard responds to incidents of sexual misconduct among University students, faculty and staff.

In addition, President Faust recently announced the creation of a University-wide task force - composed of faculty, students and staff - that will recommend how we can better prevent sexual misconduct at Harvard. Additional information about the task force - which is being chaired by former Harvard Provost and former Director of the National Institute for Mental Health, Dr. Steven D. Hyman - is located here."

Princeton University

"The University is aware of the investigation, which began in 2010, and will continue to cooperate with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). As you might know, OCR has stated that 'a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law.'"

University of California, Berkeley
"Sexual assault on college campuses is a critical issue and we will cooperate fully with the investigation. On Feb. 25, Chancellor Dirks sent a letter to the campus community stating clearly that sexual assault will not be tolerated in our community. Much has been done to strengthen the campus' handling of these issues, but we understand that there is always room for improvement. We look forward to continuing to work with campus professionals, students, and others, to take further strides in addressing this important matter."

University of Chicago

"In connection with a complaint filed last March (2013), the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (Region V) informed the University in mid-January that it wanted to gather additional information. The OCR asked to review certain records and interview staff members. It also asked to meet with selected focus groups of students to discuss their experiences with the University's policies and practices regarding sexual misconduct. Building on a history of productive collaboration with the OCR, the University has made every effort to comply with the spirit and letter of this inquiry, and will incorporate any OCR findings into its ongoing efforts to provide for the best possible campus climate. The University is committed to ensuring that its educational programs and work environment are free from unlawful discrimination under Title IX.

"In order to sustain an academic community in which all students and scholars can participate freely and fully, the University has a particular commitment to addressing sexual misconduct and unlawful harassment and discrimination involving students. Over the years, this commitment has led to the creation of important student support programs such as the Sexual Assault Dean-on-Call, the Bias Response Team, and RSVP (Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention); the growth of confidential resources offered by the Student Counseling Service; and special training for University police officers in responding to acts of sexual violence. It also demands that we regularly re-evaluate our student disciplinary processes and update our policies, as we did in 2006, 2010 and 2011, and as undertaken again this academic year."

Vanderbilt University

"Vanderbilt is fully cooperating with a Title IX regulatory compliance review being conducted by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. Vanderbilt is committed to complying with Title IX and protecting the safety and well-being of our students."

(Maurice DuBois, CBS News)

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