GW under federal investigation for possible Title IX violations

Updated August 10, 2017 at 4:48 p.m.

The University is under investigation by the Department of Education for possible violations of federal law over its handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The investigation began Tuesday, according to a Department of Education document. No other details about the investigation have been released.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said an individual had filed a Title IX complaint against the University with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“While the university was not provided with any further information about the complaint, it takes any report of sexual misconduct very seriously,” Csellar said in an email. “Accordingly, the University will cooperate fully with the Office for Civil Rights as it conducts its inquiry into the complaint.”

She said the University would not comment “on the specifics of any one case.”

This is the first time GW has been under federal Title IX investigation since 2011. That inquiry resulted in changes to the University’s sexual assault case policy, including the creation of separate procedures for sexual assault cases that are different from other forms of violence.

GW is one of 250 colleges and universities nationwide currently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for possible mishandling of sexual violence cases. Title IX law prohibits sex-based discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment, in all education programs or activities that receive federal funding.

The investigation comes less than a month after officials ordered an outside legal review of GW’s Title IX policies.

The University has seen a series of high-level departures from its Title IX office in recent years, leaving Title IX Coordinator Rory Muhammad the only full-time, permanent staff member in the office.

Last spring, the University’s handling of sexual assault cases came under scrutiny after alumna and sexual assault survivor Aniqa Raihan launched an online campaign to expel her assailant after he received a lesser punishment than the minimum suggested sanction. Members of Students Against Sexual Assault also sought to have the assailant fired from his student manager job at the Lerner Health and Wellness Center.

Officials later announced he would not lose his campus employment or enrollment status, sparking protests on campus and at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony where Raihan and student activists unfurled a banner reading “GW Protects Rapists.”

During the controversy, officials announced they would conduct an internal review of the sexual assault case process and examine ways to improve transparency and communication in cases.

In recent years, GW has developed additional efforts in the Title IX office for sexual violence prevention. The Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at GW was created in October 2014, two campus climate surveys have been conducted and officials implemented mandatory sexual assault prevention education in 2015 after lobbying efforts from students.

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