A federal Title IX “compliance review” is underway at Vanderbilt University and 54 other mainly high profile schools over how they handle sex abuse complaints.
It comes after a release from the federal government listing the schools where complaints are being investigated.
The action at the Nashville school follows a complaint filed last fall with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights by a group of former and current female Vanderbilt students.
Part of the title IX law regulates how institutions’ like Vanderbilt, who receive federal funds, handle sexual violence.
Change and fines can be imposed by U.S. Department of Education.
One of the women talking publicly about why she joined the complaint is Vanderbilt alumna Sarah Beth O’Brien who will receive her degree next week.
She calls herself a rape survivor.
“There are so many people, myself included, who are going to be walking across the stage with the same person who raped them,” she told News 2. “And that is really bittersweet because we are going to be carrying the same diploma, and that to me is just not fair.”
While Sarah Beth says she waited a year to report the rape after struggling with what to do, that incident began a college career of activism at Vanderbilt to raise awareness and promote change in a campus culture that she believes could better handle sexual assault complaints.
“They don’t let the survivor move their dorm room, they did not let them get psychological counseling and if they asked for an order of protection, they said they would give them one and they did not give them one,” said Sarah Beth when asked what are the things she and other women have experienced at Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt declined an on-camera interview, but the school did release a statement from Vice-Chancellor of Public Affairs Beth Fortune.
“Vanderbilt is fully cooperating with a Title IX regulatory compliance review being conducted by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. We understand the Department of Education to be conducting these reviews at a number of campuses across the country. The university has not seen any complaint that may have been filed with the Department of Education under Title IX. Vanderbilt is committed to complying with Title IX and protecting the safety and well-being of our students,” said Fortune in the statement.
It is not clear how long a “review” might take but there have been reports that it has taken several years at some schools in the past.