Tufts Recommits to Title IX Settlement

May 2, 2014

After withdrawing last week from a signed agreement with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to resolve a Title IX complaint, Tufts University has recommitted to the agreement, a spokeswoman confirmed on Friday.

“We consider the signed agreement to be in effect,” Kimberly M. Thurler, a university spokeswoman, said in an email.

The university had “revoked” its signature on the agreement on April 26 -- nine days after first signing it -- once the OCR said it was going to find the university’s current policies out of compliance.

University officials said they were “surprised and disappointed” in that finding and that they had signed the agreement under the pretense that the OCR had only determined a previous violation of Title IX, not a current issue of noncompliance.

That led the OCR to take the unusual step of warning the university that it might have sought to terminate federal funding to the institution if it did not resolve the issue within 60 days.

More than 100 students rallied on Thursday to protest Tufts’ decision to withdraw from the agreement.

Following that rally, the university said in a statement Thursday that it acknowledged the OCR’s position that the university had breached its agreement by withdrawing from it.   

The university further said it had “had productive conversations with OCR regarding the issue of Title IX compliance” and that it expected “those conversations will move toward a successful conclusion in the very near future, well within the sixty-day period that has been stipulated.”

Anthony P. Monaco, the university’s president, will travel to Washington next week to discuss the university’s Title IX compliance issues with OCR officials in person, Thurler said.

The university also said that, in spite of its disagreement with the OCR it was pushing ahead, on a voluntary basis, with an array of projects aimed at combating sexual assault on the campus. One element of the OCR agreement that was unusual was monetary compensation to the female student who filed the Title IX complaint that alleged the university mishandled her sexual assault case, which started in 2010.  

The lawyer representing that student, Colby Bruno of the Victim Rights Law Center, said in an interview this week that monetary compensation mentioned in the OCR agreement was governed by a private arrangement the university previously struck with her client. It was therefore not affected by the university’s dust up with the OCR last week, she said.

The OCR’s finding that Tufts’ current policies are out of compliance came last week as the Obama administration promoted its efforts to push colleges to clamp down on sexual assaults. In addition to urging colleges to do more on the issue, the administration also publicly named, for the first time, all of the 55 colleges that the Education Department is probing for their handling of sexual assault cases.

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