The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced on Thursday that Southern Methodist University had been found in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 because of its inadequate response to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The office investigated three complaints: two that alleged sexual harassment, and a third asserting that the Texas university had not appropriately responded to a student’s sexual assault, nor had it protected him from retaliation by the alleged perpetrator’s friends. As part of an agreement settling the department’s inquiry, the university must revise its Title IX grievance procedures, conduct an annual climate assessment, and reimburse the third complainant for some university-related and counseling expenses.
Under the agreement, the university must also review all reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence filed since the 2012-13 academic year to determine if it had responded correctly. Such reviews have become common features of Title IX settlements, having appeared in those of Princeton University and Ohio State University.
Southern Methodist is one of the dozens of colleges placed under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights for reported violations of Title IX.
The university provided the following statement in an email to The Chronicle: “This voluntary resolution agreement with OCR confirms SMU’s commitment to provide a safe and supportive campus environment and to follow the Department of Education’s Title IX guidelines as they continue to evolve. We appreciate OCR’s recognition of the new policies and procedures SMU has implemented prior to and during its investigation, as well as recognition of the work of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct. Although we take issue with some of OCR’s conclusions and generalizations, we look forward to taking additional actions as outlined. The well-being of our students is our highest priority.”