Princeton's Sex Assault Policies Are So Bad, They're Actually Illegal

A four-year probe into Princeton University revealed major flaws in the school's sexual misconduct policy. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that in handling sexual assault cases, Princeton University violated Title IX, a federal law that enforces gender equality in education. The investigation evaluated three separate cases of reported sexual assault and discovered that the university's conduct had favored the accused over the alleged victims in multiple ways. As a result, Princeton will make major changes to its policy as outlined in a new resolution agreement with the OCR.

As revealed by the lengthy investigation, Princeton University seems to have been enforcing a policy that drastically favored the accused over the reported victim in sexual assault cases. For example, the probe found that accused students were able to appeal a decision made by the university's sexual assault committee while the alleged victim was not.

Furthermore, the accused were also offered a much more comprehensive review process, in which the accused could question anyone with knowledge of the case in front of the committee, submit character statements, and were even given an adviser to help them through the process. Just a reminder: this is the accused we're talking about. Reported victims were not offered any of these privileges.

As for the sexual assault reporter, it seems that they faced more restrictions than support. The OCR's investigation found that the university failed to provide clear information on how to report a case, did not provide any time frame for case resolutions, and did not assure the reporting students that the school would take steps to prevent ongoing harassment.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In one specific case that occurred from 2009 to 2010, one student was found guilty of sexual assault and suspended, but the accused appealed and withdrew from the university without reporting it to the victim. The OCR found that during the lengthy appeals process, a no-contact order was never enforced between the accused and the victim, and the university didn't impose one until a year after the victim first filed the complaint. A second student in a case from 2010 to 2011 was discouraged by the school to report her case in the first place, the probe found.

So what exactly is Title IX and how did Princeton violate it? Title IX is a law under the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 that protects people from discrimination based on their sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX is most commonly associated with enforcing gender equality in athletics, but it focuses on 10 key areas in total, including access to higher education, education for pregnant and parenting students, and sexual harassment. Under Title IX, schools must take action to prevent and address sexual harassment and assault against students, which the OCR's probe found that Princeton failed to do.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As a result, Princeton University must now partially reimburse the tuition of the three reported sexual assault victims and has vowed to make changes to its policy pursuant to Title IX as detailed in a resolution agreement. The new procedures in filing complaints include a more thorough explanation of how to file a complaint, clear definitions of what constitutes sexual misconduct, provisions providing for the prompt, comprehensive, and impartial investigation into all complaints, and an assurance that the university will take the proper steps to stop and prevent ongoing harassment if the complainant should choose not to proceed with a formal or informal hearing.

In addition, Princeton must provide OCR with reports of how it handles sexual misconduct cases going forward, as well as a report of any cases in the last year detailing the outcome of any other Title IX investigations.

Hopefully the university will make good on these new promises — it can start with the recent lewd photo incident at the Princeton eating club. Spotlight's on you, Princeton.

Images: Wikipedia Commons, Getty Images (2)