BREAKING: Cedarville University will announce shortly that they are the subject of a Title IX investigation, and are taking steps in response.
The following press release was leaked to The Ventriloquist today:
Cedarville Press Release:
Cedarville Leaders Reviewing TITLE IX Policies and Procedures
CEDARVILLE, OHIO – Cedarville University President Thomas White, Ph.D., was recently notified by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that a Title IX complaint had been filed against the University. As is the customary practice of OCR, neither the actual complaint, nor the identity of the complainant(s), have been shared with the University. The grounds for the complaint, as set forth in the notification letter to President White, allege that the University lacked a Title IX coordinator and “prompt and equitable” grievance procedures for resolving Title IX complaints on campus.
As coordinated with OCR, the University will respond to their request for documents on Thursday, July 25.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) is a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions. The law states that "no person in the United States shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Sexual harassment and all forms of sexual violence fall within the broader definition of sexual discrimination. Under Title IX, colleges and universities are required to take immediate and corrective action to eliminate harassment or discrimination, prevent their recurrence and address their effects on the individual and the broader campus community.
As a Christ-centered university, Cedarville University does not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct. As set forth in the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy, sexual harassment violates the dignity of individuals and is prohibited by University policy and state and federal law. Consistent with a shared goal of eliminating sexual harassment on campus, Cedarville University is committed to working with the Office for Civil Rights for a timely and judicious resolution to this complaint. The University welcomes the opportunity to review current policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence.
“The complaint that was communicated to me by the Office for Civil Rights is one that will be taken seriously by the University community,” said White. “We will review the issues to make sure Cedarville University is in compliance and that our campus is a place where everyone feels they can have related concerns appropriately addressed.”
Title IX compliance has been a long standing priority for University leaders. In fact, following OCR’s April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (a significant guidance document), the University joined schools across the country to heed “the call to action” to review policies and implement changes as needed. Much work has been done during the past two years to ensure the University’s compliance with federal mandates.
During President White’s first month at Cedarville, he’s implemented initiatives to increase the intensity of the University’s compliance efforts. Robert Vaughn, Esq., assistant professor of criminal justice and assistant university counsel, was named to coordinate Title IX training under the University’s policy and Lisa Todd, associate vice president of human resources, is the point person for individual Title IX complaints. White also appointed John Gredy, Ed.D., provost, as his liaison to a new oversight committee for Title IX compliance. The committee consists of representatives from student life, human resources, public safety and public relations, and is chaired by General Counsel.
In addition, the University retained Gina Maisto Smith, a national legal expert on Title IX and the institutional response to sexual misconduct, to guide the University team in its continuing assessment and implementation of effective policies and procedures. Smith works with dozens of higher education institutions across the country and brings an informed and sensitive perspective to achieving an integrated and coordinated institutional response.
In 2011-2012, the University’s human resources office began collecting and reviewing best practices in order to revise and enhance existing policies on sexual harassment and related concepts. The University pursued many key initiatives: policies in the University Handbook and Faculty and Staff Handbook were strengthened; an anonymous reporting system to uncover unethical or unlawful behavior among campus staff and students was developed and implemented; and a plan for faculty and staff training related to sexual harassment was implemented. Under current policy, all employees are required to participate in an education program on sexual harassment.
Historically, staff members from the offices of student life and human resources have reviewed sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. They also met with the individuals making a claim, investigated the claim, and followed up by taking the appropriate action.
Cedarville University is not alone in the scrutiny of an OCR complaint. Over the past several years, colleges and universities have increasingly been audited for Title IX compliance issues. The combination of the April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (an OCR significant guidance document), very public complaints against other colleges and universities, and evolving legislation, such as the March 7, 2013, reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act and enactment of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act have brought renewed – and welcome – attention to issues of sexual misconduct on college campuses.
“We live in a broken world and these are just some of the symptoms,” said White. “As a Christ-centered university, Cedarville is committed to honoring the principles of the Bible that shape how we care for others.”
Information about Title IX and University policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html and http://www.cedarville.edu/~/media/Files/PDF/Campus-Safety/Security-Report-2011/SecurityReport2011.pdf.
Individuals with concerns about sexual harassment or misconduct should contact Todd, the University’s Title IX Coordinator, at 937-766-2211.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,400 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Inspiring greatness for over 125 years, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.
The Ventriloquist has obtained the following response from the alum who filed the Title IX complaint that initiated the investigation:
I filed the complaint in response to Cedarville University's decades-long non-compliance with basic Title IX regulations. Specifically, students were not informed that there is an established reporting policy and investigation process established for cases of rape, assault, and harassment. Additionally, the university had not designated a Title IX Coordinator for processing these cases. I am a survivor of an attempted rape that occurred during my years as a student at Cedarville. I therefore have firsthand knowledge of the school's non-compliance, and have additional witnesses who will testify that the school has historically not complied with Title IX.
The university began an internal investigation of my assault this year, but at that time, I was never informed that Lisa Todd is a Title IX coordinator, nor did she identify herself that way to me. I was never informed of the university's reporting policies and processes. In my experience, this contributes to a profoundly hostile campus environment and actively threatens the safety of Cedarville University's female students. I hope that the school is sincere, and that will comply with Title IX in the future, but the fact remains that they did not comply with the law when I most needed them to do so. I deserved a safer school. Current female students deserve a safer school, too. And they deserve transparency about the school's history with Title IX, which is not provided by the university's statement.
I don't currently have legal counsel, and I can't afford it right now, either. This complaint was a last-ditch effort to ensure justice for current and future students. I knew at the time I filed it that it was probably too late for me.