Southwestern University faces 2nd Title IX sexual assault investigation

(KXAN File Photo)
(KXAN File Photo)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — A new sexual assault case at Southwestern University in Georgetown is being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights. The Title IX investigation into campus sexual violence was launched on March 13.

This is the second investigation since the first one launched in February of 2016. The Office of Civil Rights does not discuss details of its investigations. But in an email from the SU president to students last year, Edward Burger wrote, “The Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education asked Southwestern to provide some information regarding Southwestern’s handling of a certain case of sexual misconduct from a previous year, and its policies for handling sexual misconduct allegations as required nu Title IX of the Education Amendments of 197.” Regarding the first investigation, the university tells KXAN it hasn’t heard back from the Office of Civil Rights since that investigation launched.

“If it needs to happen, I’m glad it’s happening, but it’s really unfortunate that it has to happen again,” said Southwestern senior Kate Hazzard.

Southwestern students like Hazzard, are hearing about the new investigation. She hasn’t been involved in any incidents, but felt compelled to take part in a 2015 protest against sexual assault on campus. “These are things that are happening that have been going on that we can’t ignore,” explains Hazzard.

In 2015, the school—working with students—rewrote the school’s policy on student sexual misconduct. The impetus for the changes came after allegations of students being drugged at parties in 2014.

There were three main areas that changed: the definition of consent, expanding the appeal process and the rights of both parties. Consent is now defined as a voluntary, non-impaired, verbal agreement. And when someone doesn’t say ‘no,’ it does not mean ‘yes.’ Students must also be notified in writing if an appeal is requested after a hearing, and the outcome of that appeal. Also, there is now an appellate board, instead of just one person making a final decision

Hazzard hopes the outcome of the latest investigation makes campus even safer for students. “I hope this investigation actually gets some results and that we can make progress from it.”

Southwestern President Edward Burger released this statement to KXAN Thursday, regarding the new investigation:

“Yesterday the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education asked Southwestern to provide some information regarding a sexual misconduct case and its policies for handling sexual misconduct allegations as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  The University is cooperating fully and is actively working to gather all requested materials in a timely manner.

Southwestern University is steadfast in its commitment to equal opportunity and non-discrimination.  As stated in Southwestern’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy:

“Southwestern University affirms the rights of its students to live, work, and learn in an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from the threat of sexual misconduct.  Accordingly, any form of sexual misconduct will not be tolerated.  Southwestern University values the rights and dignity of all members of its community.”

Southwestern is committed to a safe campus community. We believe that OCR will recognize that commitment, and if OCR suggests changes to improve still further, those changes will, of course, be implemented.

Although Southwestern does not disclose the specifics of this or any case, we always encourage and value ongoing conversations about our campus climate, and preventing and responding to sexual misconduct. To learn more, visit our Title IX website, updated regularly at http://www.southwestern.edu/titleix/index.php.

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