The Title IX investigation into Syracuse University, explained

Kiran Ramsey | Senior Design Editor

A former student at Syracuse University filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, alleging SU did not respond promptly or equitably to a reported sexual assault.

Syracuse University is currently under a federal investigation for its handling of a sexual assault case, an investigation that began after a former student filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education.


Emma Comtois | Digital Design Editor

The complaint was filed on or about May 5, 2015, according to documents obtained by The Daily Orange, and the investigation was opened in June. Since The Daily Orange broke news of the investigation in August, there have been further developments related to the investigation. Here’s everything you need to know:

What does the complaint allege?

The complaint alleges that SU failed to respond “promptly or equitably” to the reported sexual assault, according to the documents The Daily Orange obtained.

Did the university commit any wrongdoing?

That will be unclear until the results of the investigation are made public. The opening of an investigation in itself does not imply any wrongdoing on behalf of SU.

A letter sent from the Department of Education to SU Chancellor Kent Syverud in June said the investigation will determine whether SU students are subject to a “sexually hostile environment.” The letter also states that the Office for Civil Rights is a “neutral fact-finder” and opening an investigation “in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to its merit.”


Emma Comtois | Digital Design Editor

What has the university said about the investigation?

In a statement to The Daily Orange in August, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Kevin Quinn said the following:

“The University recently received a letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informing it that a former student has filed a Title IX-related complaint. The OCR, which is currently investigating more than 245 Title IX-related complaints at other institutions, made clear in its letter to SU that ‘opening an allegation for investigation does not mean that it has made a determination with regard to its merit.’ The University takes any Title IX-related complaint very seriously, as we expect everyone on our campus to be treated with dignity and respect. We will assist OCR with their inquiry and share with them the facts and set of actions the University undertook in regard to this case.”

Then, in October, SU made its first public comments on the investigation but did not provide any details or specifics about the investigation.

“To protect the privacy of our students, faculty, and staff — who may report Title IX violations as confidential matters — we have worked with OCR to obtain the time necessary to redact any personally identifiable information from past records,” SU’s interim Chief Equal Opportunity Officer and Title IX Officer Sheila Johnson-Willis said in the statement. “For these same protected privacy reasons, the University cannot release or share details on any individual complaint.”


Emma Comtois | Digital Design Editor

Sexual violence task force

When the investigation was opened, SU officials did not notify members of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence, according to members of the task force.

The task force members received an email at 5 p.m. the day after The Daily Orange’s report of the investigation, asking the members if they wanted to remain on the task force. In the email, which was obtained by The Daily Orange, there was no mention of the investigation.

The email was the first communication between SU and the task force since the spring semester, as the task force was largely disregarded over the summer, said a member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the member was not authorized to comment publicly on matters related to the task force.


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