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The Blue & Gray Press | October 19, 2017

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Title IX investigation begins at UMW following complaint in May

Title IX investigation begins at UMW following complaint in May

By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH

The University of Mary Washington has become one of more than 124 secondary institutions that are under investigation by The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, OCR, for Title IX violations.

The list grew to 124 this past July after rising from 106 in April and 94 in January of this year. It is speculated that the rise may be due to a growing awareness of unreported and unsuccessful dealings with Title IX cases at universities, particularly in instances of sexual assault.

There have been five universities in Virginia, not including UMW, that are also under investigation by the OCR, including the University of Virginia and James Madison University. An email was sent to the UMW student body announcing that The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights recently notified the university that the organization had opened an investigation that would take place at the school following a complaint that was announced in May.

The complaint was filed by members of the groups Feminists United UMW and the Feminist Majority Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with women’s rights in Arlington, who decided to file the complaint at the beginning of April.

The complaint addresses that the University failed to comply with rules addressing cyber bullying and threats of violence made on social media site to students within Feminists United, the social media app Yik-Yak in particular.

The email sent to the student body by President Rick Hurley said that the university would fully comply with the Office of Civil Rights during its investigation.

Leah Cox, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion, also said that the university will cooperate with the OCR during its investigation.

Cox highlighted the steps UMW has taken to address sexual assault and gender-based harassment, including the year-long Civility Series, Bystander Intervention Training, being in the process of hiring a new Sexual Assault and Prevention Specialist, the “Yes is the Key” campaign, the presidential sexual assault task force and the mandatory online training course assigned to students this semester. The online training addressed sexual assault in addition to relational abuse and drug and alcohol usage.

“We are attempting to make sure all of our students, faculty and staff are aware of the importance of addressing and hopefully ending sexual harassment and violence in our community,” Cox said.

Liz Kump, senior English and theatre double major, knows the events and has read the email about the Title IX complaint. However, she believes that UMW has not given adequate information to students concerning this situation or the events surrounding the offensive chant that members of the men’s Mother’s Rugby team had attended.

This in turn has caused students to find information from outside of the school, according to Kump.

“I still feel like the lack of information about what happened is disturbing,” Kump said. Though Kump feels that there have been fewer controversial events happening on campus this semester, she is unsure that students will get information first hand. “To my perception, there aren’t a lot of things that are happening [on campus,] but a lot of things are under-reported,” Kump said.

Gavin Wall, sophomore and business administration major, has a different opinion on Yik-Yak or anonymous social media, a factor that prompted the Title IX report. According to Wall, he does not believe the anonymous network necessarily reflect the student body in its viewpoints or its actions.

“Yes, people are anti-feminist, but people are also anti-republican, anti-democrat, anti-sports teams. It’s because it’s an anonymous website,” Wall said.