More Ga. colleges added to federal sexual assault investigations

The number of Georgia colleges under federal investigation for their handling of cases of sexual violence has tripled over the past year and a half, according to a database released this week by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Two institutions — Spelman and Morehouse colleges — were added to the the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights investigation's list in November, the same month students at the historically black schools petitioned administrators to better address sexual violence on their campuses.

Oglethorpe University also made the list in mid 2015, for a complaint relating to the handling of one case of alleged sexual misconduct.

Emory University has been under investigation since December 2013. The university said the investigation was not initiated by a complaint, but was part of a compliance review. That is when the Office of Civil Rights checks to make sure a college follows the requirements of the law when handling sex assaults.

Representatives from Morehouse and Spelman did not respond this week to email and phone requests for comment.

“Oglethorpe takes all complaints of sexual misconduct very seriously, is dedicated to to complying with Title IX, and is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of its students and the entire university community,” read a statement from the university.

The federal office first named schools under investigation of the gender-equality law Title IX in May 2014. At that time 55 colleges — including Emory — were under investigation. As of this month, there are 197 open investigations at 161 institutions, according to information the Chronicle of Higher Education released in a project tracking federal investigations.

The updated numbers illustrate the result of the federal government pressing universities to do more to keep students safe, and mandating stricter reporting requirements of sex crimes on campus. Since then, the number of complaints against campuses has multiplied, according to the Chronicle, with the civil rights office seemingly unable to keep up. Only 19 percent of the cases tracked in the new database have been resolved. All of the Georgia cases remain open.

The Chronicle’s searchable database includes records of 243 investigations, including resolved cases and multiple cases at some colleges, along with summaries and links to other news stories and case files, where available.

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