Thu05252017

Last updateThu, 20 Apr 2017 10am

News

University Under Federal Investigation by the Office of Civil Rights

OCR InvestigationThe University was added to a list of 270 colleges under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly failing to respond to a complaint of sexual assault made in February 2015. As a result, the student was subjected to a “sexually hostile environment.”

Recent University graduate Tara Moore, whose name has been revealed at her request, made national headlines with news organizations such as CNN, News 12 New Jersey, and the Huffington Post in the spring under the pseudonym Sarah. She filed the complaint in March.

Moore’s 87 page complaint sent to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recapped her sexual assault with evidence and explained why she felt the University violated her Title IX rights during their investigation that eventually led to the expulsion of her assaulter.

On April 21, OCR notified the University and Moore that a case had been opened. According to OCR, the University is under investigation for failing to appropriately respond to Moore’s report and subjecting her to a sexually hostile environment.

Since 2011, OCR has conducted 322 investigations for possibly mishandling reports of sexual violence on college campuses. Today, 52 cases have been resolved, and 270 are active.

Some of the schools with open investigations alongside the University’s are Stanford, Princeton, and Cornell. In fact, 28 of the 50 “Best Universities” in U.S. News and World Report are under investigation.

According to John Christopher, Vice President and General Counsel, the University will be supplying a copy of the investigator’s report to OCR, along with an extensive list of documents that OCR has asked to review. 

Sofie Karasek, Director of Education and co-founder of the organization “End Rape on Campus,” explained that in her experience she has seen it take between two and four years for a case to be resolved.

“Generally, what we have seen happen in the last few years is a Compliance Resolution Agreement. OCR ensures that certain changes are made to policies and procedures to ensure they are in compliance. There is then a monitory period and OCR checks in from time to time to make sure they have remained in compliance,” said Karasek.

“What I hope we get out of this investigation is a better way to look at cases moving forward. We cannot go back and fix what happened, and that is unfortunate. But I think that the woman has a lot of confidence for coming forward. And at least we can find out what we did wrong, and make sure that we don’t do that again, and people wont have to go through what she went through,” said Jennifer McGovern, an assistant professor of sociology.

“This is an opportunity for the University to certainly take a look at policies, procedures, and practices and to listen to students and the campus community and to learn how people are feeling,” said Nina Anderson, Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. “I don’t know how people are feeling until someone says something, but we can certainly use this opportunity if there are concerns or if there are things that we could be doing better or differently.”

“The safety and security of all members of our campus community are top priorities for me. As soon as I became aware that there was a concern with our process, I moved immediately to bring in an independent, outside expert to comprehensively examine our procedures to ensure that we are doing all that we can to safeguard and support everyone on our campus,” said University President Paul Brown, PhD.   

McGovern said, “Certainly I think we should have a lot more programs so that we do not have sexual assault in the first place.”

Moore explained the importance of continuing to pursue this case even after graduating. “This issue is so important. Regardless of my personal connection to it, this issue is one of those things that everyone knows happens everywhere not just on college campuses, yet most people unfortunately don’t do anything about it.” 

Moore said the issue of sexual assault and rape on campus is bigger than her and that she hopes she makes a difference in some way. “To say that I want to fix things everywhere would be unrealistically ambitious. But if I can have a part in starting the conversation here, then I made a difference. This has to be something that is a joint effort and people need to think about the issue differently.”

This semester the sexual assault policy in the student handbook was updated. “Every year the university reviews, particularly during the summer time as we are preparing the new student handbook, virtually all of our policies and procedures, including our policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct,” said Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement Mary Anne Nagy.

Nagy explained that these changes were not directly prompted by any one particular activity or action but is something routinely done by the University.

Moore asserts that the University needs to make a number of improvements. For example, she said that there is a lack of adequate online material to assist survivors of sexual assault.

“In this day and age people find things online. But if you search, ‘Monmouth University Sexual Assault’ into Google the first thing that pops up is a Monmouth webpage titled Alcohol and Sexual Assault,” said Moore. “That page is full of victim blaming connotations, and has no number or name listed to contact.”

Nagy explained that the website may soon see updates. “Now that we are back in school and the (sexual misconduct) policy has changed, it is the responsibility of each department head or section head to go in and make sure that their pages are consistent with new policies and procedures.”

Moore explained the severity of her situation at the time. “I didn’t want to walk in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC) because of how many people I knew in the student body that I knew at the time didn’t support me. I think that is a bigger reason why this issue is so important, because you are not just outcasted by the person you are making the allegations against its is a bigger force than that. One person came up to me at a bar and said ‘I respect what you are doing and I’m sorry that we aren’t friends anymore, I just don’t want (her alleged attacker) to hate me’ that to me is a huge issue, if people aren’t willing to sacrifice their friendships or their social status for something this important, that to me is almost disgusting.” 

If you would like to contact Tara Moore her email is taracmoore7@gmail.com.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault and wants to seek assistance there are a number of resources both confidential and non-confidential. A confidential resource would be the health center and psychological services. The offices of Anderson and Nagy can act as resources that are not confidential. The Monmouth University Police Department are also always available and they can always get in contact with a confidential counselor. Residential Life and RAs are as well available. Off campus there is the organization 180 Turing Lives Around.

PHOTO TAKEN by Jamilah McMillan

Contact Information

CAMPUS LOCATION
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and Instructional Technology (CCIT) Room 260, 2nd floor

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The Outlook
Monmouth University
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Phone:(732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu