SUNY Reaches Pact With U.S. to Improve Its Handling of Reported Sex Assaults

The State University of New York system has reached a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to improve how it and each of its 29 state-operated campuses handle reports of sexual assault and harassment, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Thursday.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights began a review in December 2010 of SUNY’s compliance under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal gender-equity law that prohibits sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds.

The department said in a news release that the review had not been based on a complaint filed by an individual. The resolution agreement states that SUNY’s pact with the department was entered into voluntarily, and did “not constitute an admission by SUNY that it is not in compliance with Title IX and/or its implementing regulation.”

The department said that, as part of its review, the civil-rights office had examined 159 cases of alleged sex harassment on four SUNY campuses. It said that the office had found that the “vast majority” of those cases involved reports serious enough to have created a hostile environment for the affected students. In some instances, the department said, the office found “deficiencies,” including that some complaints had not been handled adequately, and that some complainants had not been informed of the outcomes of their cases.

The agreement requires SUNY to ensure that its administrative office and its campuses have designated Title IX coordinators, to see that such officials conduct annual reviews of sex-discrimination complaints, to revise grievance procedures, and to make other improvements. Each campus will also be required to conduct annual “climate checks” that assess the effectiveness of those measures, the results of which will be reported to the civil-rights office in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

A SUNY spokesman said that the “successful culmination of this review affirms and recognizes that SUNY campuses across New York are now national models for Title IX compliance and training,” according to the Associated Press.

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