Finding Justice on Campus

Another day, another university in trouble for violating Title IX or the Clery Act.

According to the Department of Education, Title IX is an amendment that protects people from sexual discrimination in the educational world. The Clery Act is a law that requires colleges to disclose information regarding crime on campus, as well as how to handle certain crime cases (sexual assault, domestic violence, etc.). If a college, public or private, participates in federal student aid programs, then they have to abide by these guidelines. These two guidelines have been in the national spotlight as a result of students filing complaints with the Department of Education because their schools mishandled their cases. Documentaries including The Hunting Ground and It Happened Here, as well an SVU episode have increased talk about the fact that some schools are more concerned with their reputations than the well-being of assault survivors.

In 2016, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a study about assault on college campuses. In that study, 21% of women from the nine schools participating reported that they had experienced some form of assault since entering college, with a majority stating that the assailant was someone they knew. The Department of Justice states that campus assault survivors face “unique challenges.” These challenges include trying to remain anonymous in what could possibly be a small campus, as well as being close to their attacker. Going back to the BJS study, only seven percent of students reported their assault to a school official, and it was less likely to be reported if drugs or alcohol played a part in it.

An increase in awareness in sexual assault on campus could lead to more investigations into how administrations handle cases. In a Vice documentary on the subject, a student at the University of Michigan claims that you’d have a better chance of someone looking into a stolen laptop than a rape on campus. With this issue making headlines and working its way into pop culture, more people are questioning why colleges try to cover up campus crimes.

Why would a school cover up crimes that may have been committed on campus? As stated above, their reputation is at stake. A good example of this is Baylor University. According to legal analyst Michael McCann, an alumna going by the pseudonym Elizabeth Doe is suing Baylor after claiming that she was raped by members of the football team in 2013 and that the school did nothing about it. Doe claimed that one of her colleagues, who also worked as a hostess for football recruits, encouraged her to not tell Waco police about the assault. After Doe graduated in 2014, Baylor created a Title IX office, and Doe contacted them and filed a lawsuit in 2017. Doe filed her complaint three years after the alleged incident. In the state of Texas, all Title IX complaints have a two-year statute of limitations before they are forfeited. The only way to avoid the case being dropped is if more students come forward with similar claims.

If you follow college football, you’ll know that Baylor is a football powerhouse. Big wins on the field means happy alumni, and happy alumni means more donations to the school.

According to the Washington Post, nearly 100 colleges and universities have had at least ten reports of rape on campus. The number is growing because more students are coming forward and reporting their assaults to the authorities, which could lead to justice for survivors. If more people come forward and report their attacks to their respective institutions, or even the Department of Education through a Title IX complaint, this could lead to schools focusing more on the well being of sexual assault survivors instead of their image.

Melissa is a recent college graduate who is navigating the post-grad world one cup of coffee (or wine) at a time. Her hobbies include reading, working on campaigns, watching the Baltimore Ravens play, and occasionally figure skating.