[Updated (9/21/2015, 3:10 p.m.) with details from the department’s findings.]
After a years-long investigation of sexual assault at the University of Virginia, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Monday that “a basis for a hostile environment” existed at the university “during academic years 2008-2009 through 2011-2012, as well as concerning a report filed by a student in 2013 and a report filed by a student in 2014.”
Among the department’s findings, enumerated in a 26-page letter:
- The university did not have policies compliant with the gender-equity law known as Title IX from 2005 to earlier this year.
- From 2008 to 2012, the university did not respond promptly and equitably to many complaints that were not filed as formal complaints.
- The basis for a hostile environment existed for students from 2008 to 2012, and the university didn’t eliminate it.
- Comments made by the chair of the university’s sexual-misconduct board in a radio broadcast in 2014, in which she explained why the board had not expelled students who admitted responsibility for a sexual assault, contributed to the basis for a hostile environment.
In an agreement with the department’s Office for Civil Rights that settled the investigation, the university did not admit to any of the office’s findings, and did not give up the right to contest them “through all legal or administrative proceedings.”
But in the settlement, also released on Monday, the university agreed to make a series of changes, and to submit them to the office for review. Among them:
- The university will notify the department if it makes any changes in its sexual-harassment policy, which has been in place since July.
- The university will disseminate its notice on nondiscrimination and give proof to the department by November 1.
- By November 1, the university must develop sexual-harassment and sexual-violence training for all students and employees involved in the investigation or resolution of sexual-assault complaints.
- The university must administer one or more annual climate assessments to students on issues concerning sexual violence.
In a message to the campus announcing the agreement, the university’s president, Teresa A. Sullivan, stressed that its current sexual-harassment policy had been deemed “exemplary” by the department. “By signing a resolution agreement with OCR, we have agreed to take important steps to continue to improve our efforts in this area,” Ms. Sullivan wrote. “We have already implemented many of the measures identified in the resolution agreement, and we will continue to work to strengthen our efforts.”
Clarification (9/21/2015, 5:30 p.m.): A previous version of this post said the department had found a “hostile environment” at the university. While the letter does refer to the university’s failure “to eliminate a hostile environment,” it characterizes what it found as “the basis for a hostile environment.” According to a university representative, that means the conditions for a hostile environment may have existed for students who experienced sexual violence.
Clarification (9/23/2015, 11:13 a.m.): We have updated this post to clarify when the agreement said the “basis for a hostile environment” existed at the university, using language drawn directly from the settlement.