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Tufts University, Federal Officials Resolve Title IX Standoff

May 9, 2014
 

Tufts University and the U.S. Department of Education have resolved an unusual dispute over how to settle a finding that the university’s handling of sexual assault cases violated federal law.

University and federal officials said Friday that Tufts had formally recommitted to the signed agreement that it backed out of earlier this month, which prompted a warning from the Education Department that the university’s federal funding may be in jeopardy.

Catherine Lhamon, the assistant secretary for civil rights, confirmed in a statement Friday that the university was no longer in breach of the agreement.

“I congratulate Tufts University for taking swift action to cure its breach of its April 17 agreement with” the department’s Office for Civil Rights, she said. “I look forward to working with [Tufts] President [Anthony] Monaco and the university community to ensure the safety of all students on campus.”

Monaco “officially” recommitted to the signed agreement during a meeting on Thursday with Lhamon, the university said. Following student protests on campus, a university spokeswoman first said last Friday that the university was recommitting to the agreement.

The standoff began last month when Tufts withdrew from an agreement it had signed nine days earlier to resolve a Title IX complaint against the university. The Education Department responded by saying that Tufts had breached the agreement and warned that officials might seek to cut off the university’s federal funding if the matter was not resolved in 60 days.

At the time, university officials said they were backing out of the agreement because they had signed it under the understanding that federal officials were concerned only with a previous violation of Title IX on the campus, not a current issue. The university said it strongly disagreed with the conclusion by the Office for Civil Rights that its current sexual assault policies violated Title IX.

The department’s announcement about the Tufts case came as the Obama administration was promoting its efforts to push colleges to clamp down on sexual assaults. 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.

Separately, the Education Department announced Friday that Virginia Military Institute had violated Title IX by kicking out pregnant cadets and not properly handing sexual harassment and assault cases. Federal officials and VMI have entered into an agreement to resolve the violations, which requires the institution to make several changes to its policies.

 
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