Paper Corrects Story on Occidental and Sex Assaults

March 17, 2014

Occidental College is among the colleges and universities being criticized for allegedly failing to adequately respond to sexual assaults, and The Los Angeles Times reported in December that the college had failed to report, as required by federal law, 27 sexual assault allegations. But on Friday, the Times published a note saying that its article had been incorrrect. "Occidental representatives approached The Times early this month to seek a correction. Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law's disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons," the note said. "Some were not sexual assaults as defined by the Clery Act. Rather, they involved sexual harassment, inappropriate text messages or other conduct not covered by the act. Other alleged incidents were not reported because they occurred off-campus, beyond the boundaries that Occidental determined were covered by the act. Some occurred in 2011, and the college accounted for them that year."

The Times note also announced the firing of the reporter who wrote the article and others about Occidental. The newspaper explained that "editors learned from the author of the articles, staff writer Jason Felch, that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with someone who was a source for the Dec. 7 story and others Felch had written about Occidental's handling of sexual assault allegations. Felch acknowledged that after the relationship ended, he continued to use the person as a source for future articles. Times Editor Davan Maharaj dismissed Felch on Friday. Maharaj said the inappropriate relationship with a source and the failure to disclose it earlier constituted 'a professional lapse of the kind that no news organization can tolerate.' "

The blog LA Observed published a statement from Felch in which he acknowledges the inappropriate relationship and the errors, but notes that, prior to publication of the article, Occidental declined to make relevant officials available to discuss the allegations on which his article was based.


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